Archive for February, 2011

Updated: New ownership(s) in the works?

At this point, here is what I can report on the ongoing Thrashers ownership issue. According to people familiar with the situation there are two investment groups that are progressing in an effort to buy the Hawks, Thrashers and Philips Arena and will keep the Thrashers in Atlanta.

A deal is not close in either case as proper paperwork has not been filed to begin serious negotiations. However, at least one group has met with the officials from the NBA and the NHL. The meeting with the NHL was Thursday.

In one of the prospective groups there is one main investor with others in the group, some of whom are from Atlanta. The group is not only interested in purchasing the three properties but there is a “development element” to the deal, possibly involving the area around the arena.

The Hawks, Thrashers and Philips Arena have been for sale and groups have expressed interest in buying the Thrashers and moving them to another city. Canadian cities Winnipeg, Quebec and Hamilton have …

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Thrashers-Panthers preview

Next for Thrashers

Who: vs. Panthers

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

TV; radio: FSSO; 680 AM, 93.7 FM

* The Thrashers are limping down the stretch. They have lost four straight games and 13 of the past 16. The Panthers have lost two straight and six of the past eight.

* Andrew Ladd has a four-game goal streak, with five goals during the span.

* Nik Antropov assisted on Ladd’s goal Wednesday against the Sabres for his 400th career point.

* Alexander Burmistrov, Patrice Cormier, Freddy Meyer, Fredrik Modin and Jim Slater are out for the Thrashers.

- Chris Vivlamore

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Thrashers trade Sopel to Montreal

The Thrashers acquired forward Ben Maxwell and a fourth-round draft pick this year from Montreal in exchange for defenseman Brent Sopel and forward Nigel Dawes.

The move was announced shortly after Thrashers General Manager Rick Dudley addressed the media about his contract extension. Dudley said a trade was likely and the team would deal from its strength – seven NHL defenseman on the roster and two more capable in the minors.

Maxwell, 22, had 40 points (11 goals, 29 assists) in 47 games with AHL Hamilton.  He ranks second on the team in points and assists, and ranks fourth in goals.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound center has played 20 NHL games with Montreal. He was selected by the Canadiens in the second round, 49th overall, of the 2006 draft.

Sopel, 34, has appeared in 59 games with the Thrashers this season with seven points (two goals, five assists).  He was acquired by the Thrashers from Chicago on June 24, 2010. He becomes the second of the four Stanley Cup champion …

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Ramsay on ’strange’ return to Buffalo

Craig Ramsay, who spent his entire NHL playing career with the Sabres, on returning to Buffalo for Wednesday’s game. His debut in the city as head coach of the Thrashers comes one day after the organization introduced new owner Terry Pegula. The owner, a long-time Sabres season-ticket holder, even cried when mentioning players of the past – including Gilbert Perreault.

“It’s strange,” Ramsay said. “Every time I come in here it’s a bit awkward. I know so many people who are still here – in great positions and good people. I’ve coached a couple of playoff rounds against them. It seems like every time I come here there is something special going on. You would think you’d get past it. You never really get past it because this is some place I was for 22 years. I have a job to do and it’s to get my team ready to go and play their best.”

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Dudley gets four-year contract extension

BUFFALO – The Thrashers agreed to a four-year contract extension with general manager Rick Dudley, according to two people familiar with the situation.

The team will make an official announcement Thursday. News of the extension first appeared in the Buffalo News Wednesday.

Dudley took over as Thrashers general manager this season after one year as assistant to now-president Don Waddell.

Dudley, with over 40 years of hockey experience as an NHL player, coach and executive, also served in the front offices with Chicago, Florida, Tampa Bay and Ottawa.

After taking over as general manager on April 14, 2010 – two days following the end of last season – Dudley began reshaping the franchise. He hired head coach Craig Ramsay and significantly reshaped the team’s roster. His moves included bringing in four players from last season’s Stanley Cup champion Chicago.

Dudley helped build two eventual Stanley Cup champions, although he left the franchises before they reached the pinnacle. …

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Now healthy, Stuart hopes for new beginning

Mark Stuart wasted little time.

Midway through his second period as a Thrasher, the newly-acquired defenseman dropped his gloves to defend a hit on teammate Evander Kane.

“I didn’t plan on getting into a fight, but it was good to get one in there,” said Stuart of his bout with Edmonton’s Jean-Francois Jacques Saturday.

Stuart and forward Blake Wheeler were obtained from Boston Friday. They arrived just in time for the Thrashers’ final 23 games, reinforcements for a team and its fading playoff hopes. They jumped right into the fire as the Thrashers travel to Buffalo for Wednesday’s game against teams tied with 60 points in the Eastern Conference – four points out of the final playoff position.

Injuries have plagued Stuart over the past two seasons. He was limited to 31 games in Boston this season by a broken hand injury. He played just 56 games last season with hand, finger and sternum injuries. Stuart hoped this year would be a new beginning. He got his new start …

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Thrashers-Sabres preview

Next for Thrashers

Who: at Sabres

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

TV; radio: FSSO; 680 AM, 93.7 FM

* The Thrashers have lost three straight and have just six wins in the past 25 games. The Sabres have lost three straight after a stretch of 11 games where they went 8-2-1.

* The teams are tied with 60 points, four points behind the Hurricanes for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

* The Thrashers penalty kill unit is last in the NHL, tied with the Oilers, with a 76.0 percent success rate.

* After going 13 games without a goal, Dustin Byfuglien has two goals and two assists in the past five games.

* Alexander Burmistrov, Patrice Cormier, Freddy Meyer, Fredrik Modin and Jim Slater are out for the Thrashers.

- Chris Vivlamore

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Ramsay on loss to Oilers: ‘Awkward’ penalties

I caught up with Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay after Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Edmonton – a game the Thrashers led 3-1 before allowing three third-period power play goals to rookie Taylor Hall. Tobias Enstrom was called for hooking and slashing penalties, Chris Thorburn was called for tripping and Nik Antropov got a double minor for high sticking in the third.

Here’s what Ramsay had to say:

“I thought we played extremely well and unfortunately it came down to special teams again – 4-on-3s and walking out of corners for goals. There were goals that should be prevented. It’s something we’ll look at again. It shouldn’t be happening this time of year, but it did. We’ll discuss it and walk the guys through it [Tuesday] because the low walk goals are the ones you don’t expect. Our defense got on the far post. We like them on the near post. It’s strange.

“We had the game. We took some crazy penalties. We need to be a team that’s known for its discipline. We can’t …

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Wheeler sees ‘great opportunity’ with Thrashers

Shortly into his first practice with the Thrashers and Blake Wheeler was in familiar territory.

One of the newest Thrashers was doing one-on-one and two-on-two battle drills Monday – courtesy of coach Craig Ramsay. Wheeler, who was acquired with Mark Stuart Friday from Boston, spent much time doing the drills when their inventor was an assistant with the Bruins the previous three seasons.

“Blake made a comment about it right off the bat because it’s a hard drill,” Ramsay said. “They saw one of the old drills coming out pretty quick.”

Wheeler and Stuart flew to back to Boston following Saturday’s loss in Edmonton to tie up loose ends. They arrived in Atlanta Monday morning just in time for their first practice.

“I view this as a great opportunity and a great challenge,” said Wheeler, who thought he was headed to Toronto in the deal that eventually brought Tomas Kaberle to Boston. “It really couldn’t have been a more perfect situation having Rammer here …

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Ladd, Thrashers closing in on new deal

As I reported last week, the Thrashers and Andrew Ladd continue to work on a new contract. Ladd said Monday that the two sides are “on the same page” and that he wants to remain with the team.

“We are still talking,” Ladd said. “We are still working on it but both sides are on the same page for sure.

“I want to be a part of what we are doing here. We kind of need a couple guys to stay and say this is a good place and we’ve got a good thing going here. It will help out a lot.”

Ladd, 25, is scheduled to be a restricted free agent following the season. He will earn $2.35 million this season. He leads the Thrashers with 21 goals, a career-high.

Last week, the Thrashers signed defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year, $26 million deal.

In other news from Monday’s practice:

* The list of players sidelined grows. Eric Boulton missed practice with an illness. Patrice Cormier also did not participate. He is classified with an upper-body injury, which is likely a concussion suffered …

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