When the Atlanta Thrashers take to the ice tonight in Sunrise, Florida to play one of their division rivals, it will mark the seventh time in the last eight games that they’ve faced off against a team with a winning record…and ninth time in the last twelve.
Yes…we are talking about the Florida Panthers here.
The Panthers have begun 2011 by scratching out a pair of wins against the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes. They have won 2 straight, are 5-1-2 in their last 8 games and 8-3-2 in their last 13 games.
In doing so, they’ve moved their record to 18-17-2… which in the wide-wide wacky world of NHL hockey counts as a winning record since 38 overall points after 37 games played amounts to a .514 points winning percentage.
Seeing the Florida Panthers above .500 in the standings happens just about as often as a hard freeze in South Beach. It’s the first time all season that the Panthers, who are last in the Southeast Division and tenth in the Eastern Conference, have poked their heads above the “break even” mark this season and it’s been since last February since they could boast such a record. Back then they were 24-23-9.
The last time the Thrashers and Panthers squared off was last November 17 when Atlanta kicked off a six game home stand. Florida won by a whisker that night by the score of 2-1. It lifted them to an 8-8-0 mark at the time…and left Atlanta at 7-9-3 and losers of 3 straight.
From what I have been told, during the second intermission of that game, there were a number of players in the home locker room that joined the coaching staff in making it very clear what they thought of the effort coming forth from a select few. They were upset because a 1-0 first period lead had slipped away during the second period…a period in which they allowed 16 shots on goal and saw the visiting Panthers spend so much time in the Thrashers defensive zone that they could have filed for Homestead Exemption.
Players were denied ice time in the third period and over the next several weeks, a couple of those players that found their way in the dog house…cough…Nic Bergfors… cough…Ben Eager…saw their time in the press box increase.
The next day, Andrew Ladd was named team captain and the Thrashers have played to a 14-6-3 record ever since.
Stephen Weiss leads the Panthers with 12 goals scored on the season. He has five in the past eight games alone. Michael Frolik’s 25 overall points, (8 goals, 17 assists), is tops on the Florida roster.
Tomas Vokoun, who stopped 38 of 39 Thrashers shots in their November 17 win, is now 15-13-1 with a .926 SV% and 2.43 GAA. Last Sunday he pounced on all 32 shots faced against the Rangers for his fifth shutout of the season.
Florida’s anemic 9.4% effective power play is dead last in the NHL but they boast the 8th best PK unit, killing off 84.0% of their opponent’s man advantage situations.
As I’m sure you already know, Dustin Byfuglien leads the Thrashers with 16 goals and 41 points. He has six power play tallies and six game-winners, including the blast in overtime that beat the Canadiens up in Montreal Sunday afternoon.
In dishing out a trio of helpers Sunday, Toby Enstrom has taken over the lead in assists with 27.
In between the pipes will be Ondrej Pavelec. Opie is 14-8-4 with a .936 SV%, 2.14 GAA and a pair of goose eggs laid up on the scoreboard. A win in south Florida tonight would set an all-time mark for wins in a season for Pavelec.
Friday night, the Thrashers will return home to play the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’ll be the first of only five home games in the month of January, so there won’t be a lot of opportunities to head down to Philips to see a game over the next few weeks.
However, there are some good deals to be had on what home dates there are and you can take advantage of them by clicking –>HERE<– and using promo code RAWHIDE.
Also, the Thrashers have made available to readers of this little online forum a special offer on tickets for next Friday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. For just $31 dollars you can procure a seat in section 205 to watch take on one of the top teams in the conference. Those seats would normally go for $57.
But there is a very limited supply available at that price and they’ll go on a first-come, first-served basis. So if you’re interested in joining me and some of my friends there, contact Karin Beckman at 404-878-3781 or e-mail her at Karin.Beckman@atlantaspirit.com.
Just ask her for Rawhide’s POMPOM ticket offer.