Lots to cover from today’s practice before the Thrashers leave Friday for the final two preseason games – tomorrow at Carolina and Saturday at Columbus. I will not be on that trip (will enjoy a three-day weekend) before the final week of practice and season-opener on Friday.
Here are the highlights:
* As coach Craig Ramsay mention in his post-game interview after Wednesday’s 4-3 exhibition loss to Nashville, the veteran defense struggled.
Specifically on Thursday he noted the struggles of the pairing of Ron Hainsey (minus-1) and Brent Sopel (minus-2).
“That wasn’t a wonderful event for those two boys,” Ramsay said. “The upside, the other four defensemen were really good. … Those two veteran players will play better. There is no doubt about that. They got trapped on the ice a couple of times. One penalty kill was way too long. We should have got it down the ice. We had a couple chances and didn’t get it done. Once you get trapped out there, especially this time of year, you often don’t get the job done. In their case, the got on a merry-go-round and swinging in circles instead of stopping. …We had three instances, off the top of my head, where we got stuck in our own zone and we got scored on twice. That’s not good enough. There is an old saying I made up years ago ‘If you think you are tired, you are not.’ You’ve got to find a way to battle through that. That’s part of the growth and the learning process that it’s not acceptable to say I was tired.”
* Injury news: Dustin Byfuglien did not practice again Thursday. Ramsay said he is unsure if the defenseman will play in either of the final preseason games. He was not on the roster for Friday’s game at Carolina (see below).
“I’m not sure,” Ramsay said. “He skated a little bit and the trainer took him off. He wanted to be careful. My guess is we will have him in the warm-up and make a game-time decision.”
Hainsey came off the ice after the start of Thursday’s practice.
Jim Slater was on the ice skating for the first time in several days. Other than skating, he did take part in drills. Slater was encouraged to get back on the ice after missing training camp time.
Slater would not reveal the exact nature of the injury, but said surgery was ruled out as an option.
“That’s the last thing I want to go through,” Slater said.
The center also said that, while unlikely, he would like to play in a preseason game. However, if not, there is still a week before the start of the season.
“That’s my timetable to be ready by next week,” he said.
Nik Antropov practiced Thursday, a day after making his preseason debut. “I felt better than I thought I would,” Antropov said after the game.
* More on Byfuglien on defense: “From the first scrimmage where I first saw him lining up as a defenseman I thought ‘Uh-oh, this could be trouble,’ Ramsay said. “But his enthusiasm has been wonderful. His great stick is really a key for a defenseman. He’s got a good stick down low, picking off pucks. Again, he’s got a lot to learn and it’s not ideal, but he really has figured out a lot of things. He’s got a ways to go but he’s a big body back there with a good stick which is really a nice thing to have. And he can jump up from there which makes him hard to cover.”
* More on Burmistrov: While he still has a lot to learn, Ramsay said he has been encouraged by the growth of first-round pick Alexander Burmistrov.
“Burmy has made huge strides. Last night he had a couple of instances. On one of the long shifts we had in our end, he had the puck over the red line and decided to stick handle. He certainly isn’t the only one, but we want to nip that one as quick as we can. One of the great things is as soon as he got to the bench a couple of the veteran players grabbed him and say ‘Hey kid, get it deep and let the boys change.’ It was good to see our bench take care of it. That’s a great step when the others are recognizing the errors and correcting them by themselves. He competes every game, he battles for pucks.
Asked if it looked possible that Burmistrov could start the season in the NHL, Ramsay said: “I think he’s done everything he could to earn a chance to play. I’ve been thrilled with him. Last night there were a few errors but overall the boy is showing that he really wants to play. I don’t mind that.”
* Lineup news: Ondrej Pavelec will start in goal Friday against Carolina. The entire remaining team will make the two-game road trip. Here is the 22-man roster for Friday’s game:
Forwards (13): Antropov, Bergors, Burmistrov, Dawes, Eager, Kane, Ladd, Little, Modin, Pettersson, Peverley, Stewart, Thorburn
Defensemen (7): Bogosian, Enstrom, Kulda, Meyer, Oduya, Sopel, Zubarev
Goaltenders (2): Pavelec, Mason
Two players will be scratched.
* Roster move: Enver Lisin, who was in training camp on a pro tryout, was released on Thursday, bringing the total number of players left in camp to 29. Lisin did not play in an exhibition game. The Thrashers must get down to the league maximum of 23 players by Wednesday.
Ramsay said he was unsure when final cuts would be made. Injuries could affect some decisions about who breaks camp.
* A little more from Ramsay: You know how I like to pass on Ramsay knowledge. Here are his thoughts about what he’d like to see in the final two preseason games. They will try a different forecheck. However, here is one problem area he has seen:
“One thing we have a tough time with is getting through the neutral zone. On thing they haven’t grasped, from me, is that we keep getting guys running into the middle of the ice. You think of traps, blocks or whatever you have, there are a whole bunch of people in the middle to the ice. When you jump into that, all you get is trouble. Peverley drove wide that set up the goal by Meyer. Bogosian drove wide that set up [the goal by Eager]. They are doing it, but they revert back to other things. Some of that is when you get tired or stay out there too long.”
Did an interview with goaltender consultant Clint Malarchuk for an upcoming story. Look for that soon.
Enjoy the weekend folks!