Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has been “sore for a little while” and that his lower-body injury acted up in Monday’s practice.
Byfuglien did not travel with the Thrashers to Raleigh for tonight’s game against Carolina and will miss his first game of the season.
“He couldn’t skate again [Tuesday],” Ramsay said. “We decided to err on the side of caution.”
Byfuglien is the team’s second leading scorer (19 goals, 30 assists). Ramsay said the Thrashers will face a challenge without the all-star.
“You certainly wouldn’t draw it up that way, especially coming off the game he had the other night when he was involved in all of our goals,” Ramsay said of Byfuglien’s four-assist game against Florida. “He’s a special player. He’s done a lot of great things for us. But at this time of the year, it isn’t one player that wins it. It’s the whole team. Each player is responsible for being the best player he can be. If we do that, we’ve got a great chance to win each night. That’s the most important thing about developing a team is not relying on a single individual.”
The Thrashers list Byfuglien as day-to-day.
Paul Postma will make his NHL debut this time. Postma will take Byfuglien’s place against the Hurricanes. Postma was called up in February, but did not dress in his one game before being re-assigned to AHL Chicago.
“I’m not Buff and I’m not going to try to be him,” Postma said. “I’m just going to worry about playing solid defensively and hopefully offensively I’ll get some chances. … I’ll do what I can but I have to be consistent in my own zone.
“I’m still going to shoot the puck and I’m not going to hold back if I do get those chances.”
That is music to Ramsay’s ears. He needs the defenseman to shoot from the point.
“We need him to shoot,” Ramsay said. “I tell most young players who come in here they are not here just to make other players look better or to get the veteran players the puck. They are here to show us what they are all about. We need all of our players trying to do that.”
Postma will begin his NHL debut paired with Johnny Oduya.
Pavelec declares himself 100 percent
Ondrej Pavelec will start in goal after missing four games with a right wrist injury. The goaltender declared himself completely healthy.
“No, absolutely not,” Pavelec said when asked if there was still pain in the wrist. “No issues any more. I’m 100 percent ready to go.”
Chris Mason played the last four-plus games after Pavelec left after the first period of the Feb. 25 game against Florida. Mason went 2-2-1 while stopping 122-of 132 shots.
The Thrashers will start with several different line combinations tonight. The most notable changes are Evander Kane moving to a line with Rob Schremp and Tim Stapleton. Schremp will center the line and Stapleton will move to right wing.
Here are the combinations and pairings: