Archive for March, 2010

On to Washington … and still alive for playoff spot

This early-morning blog comes to you from the airport in Toronto two hours before my flight to Washington leaves — so check for typos (remember Buffalo?!).

Couldn’t work this into my story last night but Pavel Kubina left Tuesday’s game against the Maple Leafs. There was no update following the game but I saw him walking to the team bus. He didn’t appear to be limping, but I have no idea the exact nature of the injury. He played just 12:39 in the 3-2 win.

I will get an update but not until Thursday’s morning skate. The Thrashers will not practice today. Only the four players who missed Tuesday’s game – Slava Kozlov, Eric Boulton, Chris Chelios and Evander Kane – will skate.

So the Bruins pulled out an overtime win over the Devils to stay two points up on the Thrashers. Why do I think that everyone will be watching the Bruins-Capitals game a week from Sunday to find out the Thrashers’ playoff fate?

No games tonight that will affect the Thrashers standings but Thursday will be …

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Kane getting closer to return

Evander Kane skated for the second time in two days on Monday as he recovers from a broken foot. He skated at Philips Arena before the pre-game skate for tonight’s game against the Hurricanes and stayed for the team practice.

Kane will not be in the lineup tonight, but it may be soon. He will make the three-game road trip with the team to Toronto, Washington and Pittsburgh.

“It feels really good,” Kane said. “I was able to go pretty hard. Yesterday it felt really good as well. Today there were no issues. I want to get in as soon as possible but it’s going to take a couple days.”

Kane has missed the past 12 games.

I don’t think it’s day-to-day yet, but I certainly hope in the next week you’ll see him on the ice,” coach John Anderson said.

The Thrashers will go with the same lineup – and same line combinations – as they play the Hurricanes for the second time in three days. Slava Kozlov, Eric Boulton and Chris Chelios are the healthy scratches.

Johan Hedberg, who stopped all 34 …

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Hedberg in goal, Stapleton in lineup

The Thrashers will start Johan Hedberg in goal for tonight’s game in Carolina. He will face Manny Legace. Cam Ward is back from injury for the Canes but will backup Legace Saturday and start in Atlanta on Monday.

Forward Tim Stapleton arrived from AHL Chicago and will be in the lineup tonight, centering Jim Slater and Colby Armstrong.

“They are in a situation where they are trying to fight for a playoff spot and that’s fun, Stapleton said. “I’m just going to do what I can do.

“I’m more of a skill guy. I just try to create a lot of offense. Obviously, I’m a little guy so I try to use my speed as my asset. I just create, make a lot of plays, play good defensively and do whatever I can to help.”

Stapleton, 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, said he got the call up just as he was preparing to take a pre-game nap for the Wolves game against Rockford on Friday. The 27-year old had 58 points (29 goals, 29 assists) for Chicago this season. He made his NHL debut last season, appearing in …

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Update: Thrashers recall Stapleton; hold closed-door meeting

UPDATE, 5 p.m.: The Thrashers have re-called forward Tim Stapleton from AHL Chicago Friday afternoon. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound winger has 58 points (29 goals, 29 assists) in 71 games this season. He is a plus-24. Stapleton will join the team in Raleigh for for Saturday’s game against the Hurricanes. The move was made after Todd White did not make the trip after suffering an upper-body injury.

The Thrashers -  both players and coaches – held a closed-door meeting on Friday before practice and messages were delivered.

Coach John Anderson questioned his team’s effort and play after Thursday’s loss to the Maple Leafs. This is what he said:

“I’m disappointed and really dismayed,” Anderson said. “After we played so hard this weekend to put forth an effort like that one, with the playoffs on the line, we have to be better. Collectively, we have to be better. And if we play like that, we’ll be out [of the playoff race] in two or three games from now.

“We’ve got to be …

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Thrashers will dress seven defensmen

Thrashers coach John Anderson told me yesterday that dressing seven defensemen was a possibility tonight with the injuries to the team’s forwards. Well, he was true to his word. With Chris Thorburn “not quite ready” to return, all healthy defenseman will be active tonight against the Maple Leafs. Slava Kozlov, still recovering from a puck to the face, took part in the morning skate but will be scratched.

Chris Chelios will be back in after missing the past five games and likely will be paired with Zach Bogosian.

“We’ll have to be thinking,” Anderson said of the strategy to use seven defensemen. “If you smell wood burning on the bench you know I’m thinking too much. … I kind of look at the positives. If one of our main D goes down we have another good D to put out there and kill penalties and visa versa. For special teams it works out pretty good. You might see a D up at forward and see another look.

Ondrej Pavelec will get the start in goal.

I talked to Nik Antropov about the …

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Thrashers (lengthy) injury update

Just back back from Thrashers practice where I got an update on several injuries.

*Todd White will miss at least Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury. He got hurt along the boards Tuesday against the Bruins. “We are not sure what it is yet,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said.

*Chris Thorburn took part in practice. He missed the past few games with a back injury. Anderson said Thorburn will likely play. If he can’t go, they may dress seven defensemen. Thorburn, who skated on a practice line with Eric Boulton and defenseman Mark Popovic because of the rash of injuries, joked such a line “would grind the heck out of it.”

*Slava Kozlov will miss four or five more days, according to Anderson. Kozlov was hit in the face with a puck during Saturday’s pre-game skate. He rode an exercise bike Wednesday and Anderson was waiting for a report.

*Evander Kane, out with a fractured left foot, skated on Tuesday but reported soreness. Anderson estimated that it would probably be another …

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Thrashers not getting caught up in the moment

The Thrashers play their biggest game of the year tonight against Boston. Win, and they are back in playoff position with nine games left.

For their part, the Thrashers know the importance of the game, but are not letting themselves think too far ahead.

Here is what some of them said this morning after morning skate:

Todd White: “I think that for us we have to worry about how we play and don’t worry about the result. I think we played a lot better the last four games and the results took care of themselves. We have to get off to a good start. In the other games, we’ve gotten off to a good start and put pressure on the other team. That will be key for us.

“I think the biggest thing is how we start the game. When we were losing those games we were sitting back and waiting for bad things to happen instead of going out there and initiating. Lately we’ve done a lot better job of trying to make good plays and get good chances early in the game.”

Rich Peverley: “We have to focus on …

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Tuesday: The Thrashers biggest game since …

The Thrashers did enough in one week to make Tuesday’s game against the Bruins the biggest for the franchise since Game 1 vs. the Rangers in 2006-07 playoffs. Just one point separates the teams for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference.

By reeling off wins against the Sabres, Senators and two against the Flyers the playoffs are realistic. Who would have thought that the point for the shootout loss to the Coyotes – who just tied for the top spot in the West – would mean so much? While the Bruins are just a point ahead, the Thrashers can win Tuesday but still don’t have total control of their own destiny as Boston has a game in hand. The Bruins’ remaining 10 games after playing the Thrashers are against the Lightning, Flames, Sabres (twice at home), Devils, Panthers, Maple Leafs, Hurricanes and Capitals (twice).

After the Bruins, the Thrashers’ final nine games are against the Maple Leafs (twice), Hurricanes (twice), Capitals (twice), Penguins (twice) and Devils …

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Special teams a little more special

One of the reasons the Thrashers have won three straight – and earned points in four in a row – is the play of the special teams.

In the past four games, the Thrashers’ penalty kill has allowed two goals in 15 man-disadvantages (87 percent success rate). Remember the Thrashers had gone 11 straight games allowing a power-play goal. The Thrashers have four goals in 22 power-play chances of their own over the past four games (18 percent).

Lots of individual plays from Saturday’s win over the Flyers that almost got lost in the shuffle.

*Jim Slater fought Dan Carcillo 39 seconds in. Eric Boulton takes on Ian Laperriere three minutes later. That set a physical tone.

*Johnny Oduya jumping over a shot on goal by Ron Hainsey that ended up making it’s way to goaltender Brian Boucher for a rebound that Colby Armstrong knocked in.

*Mark Popovic saving a goal by falling on a puck in front of the net during a scramble.

The Thrashers are not having a pre-game skate, just a video session, …

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Look what two straight wins can do

First an apology for not putting up a new blog yesterday. I went home after the morning skate, ate lunch and promptly fell asleep for three hours. Had to hustle to get back for the game.

It’s amazing what two straight wins will do in this Eastern Conference playoff race. The Thrashers now sit in a tie for ninth, three points out of a playoff spot. They will still need some help and will have to put together a decent winning streak – something they haven’t done with consistency all season. The point is win two games and you are right back in it.

Let’s see what happens Saturday against the Flyers. It’s a team in front in the standings, who have now lost both their goaltenders. More importantly, the Thrashers need to show they can win a few in a row.

A few players missing practice today – Ron Hainsey, Pavel Kubina, Johnny Oduya, Nik Antropov, Todd White and Maxim Afinogenov.

Since there seems to be some mild interest, the radio “personality” in question was Steak Shapiro in his …

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