Tobias Enstrom starts a new streak tonight.
The Thrashers defenseman, sidelined for six games with a broken finger on his right hand, will play against the New York Rangers at Philips Arena. The injury snapped Enstrom’s franchise record of 296 consecutive games played.
“It’s been tough,” Enstrom said. “It’s my first time being hurt and watching from the side is tough. I want to be out there and play the game.”
The injury also caused Enstrom to miss the NHL All-Star Game after his selection. The original diagnosis was that Enstrom would miss 2-4 weeks. He missed a day shy of three weeks after blocking a shot – which ironically came at home against the Rangers.
His recovery time did not surprise Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay.
“Toby surprises a lot of people a lot of times,” Ramsay said. “I look back at the first game he missed (versus Tampa on Jan. 23), he wanted to play. We knew it was not going to be a good idea. The doctor stepped in and made the right call. Looking at it now, this kid wants to play under just about any circumstances.”
Enstrom will be reunited with fellow All-Star and defensive partner Dustin Byfuglien. His return figures to help the Thrashers in several areas. Enstrom was a leader in ice time, led the defensive zone breakouts and played the opposite point from Byfuglien on the first power-play unit.
“He’s been brilliant for us,” Ramsay said. “Obviously, we missed him. He’s a guy that makes people around him better. He plays a lot of minutes. He handles the puck well. He’s very cool under pressure. He’s been important on the power play. Having him back in the lineup is a big step forward.”
The Thrashers went 1-4-1 without Enstrom in the lineup.
Arturs Kulda was the defensive scratch with Enstrom back in the lineup. Johnny Oduya and Brent Sopel were paired with Ron Hainsey and Zach Bogosian the other set.
Eric Boulton returned to the lineup after missing the past four games as a healthy scratch. Fredrik Modin has not practiced since being hurt in the second period of Monday’s loss in Toronto.
The line combinations will be: