If there was ever a good time for the Atlanta Thrashers to have a few days off between games, this week is really it. Coming off Sunday afternoon’s 4-3 overtime loss in Raleigh, North Carolina to the Hurricanes, they will not have to face action again until welcoming in the Philadelphia Flyers Friday night.
The last time they’ve had any more that two days rest between games was back in early December when they had three days between the overtime win against Nashville on the 6th of that month and a loss to Colorado on the 10th. Since then, they have played sixteen games in thirty days, going 7-5-4 in that time. However, they are 3-5-2 in the last ten.
The Thrashers can use this winter break to rest some weary bones and give time for players like Evander Kane, Jim Slater and Fredrik Modin to heal. Kane is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, Slater is dealing with a concussion and Fredrik Modin did not make the trip to Carolina due to a mid-body ailment.
With those three forwards unavailable, and Ben Eager serving the first of a four-game suspension stemming from his game-misconduct call during Friday night’s debacle, the Thrashers recalled Tim Stapleton from the Wolves. Traveling from Chicago with him was Spender Machacek to make his first NHL start this season. He had played two games with the Thrashers two seasons ago.
This meant that The Thrashers went into Sunday’s matinee in Raleigh with three forwards…Machacek, Stapleton and Patrice Cormier…that had 28 total NHL games experience under their collective belts. Add in rookie Alex Burmistrov, who has recently started to show some wear from his first NHL campaign, and you have one-third of your offensive unit with half a season’s experience or less.
Burmistrov has 1 goal, 2 assists and is a –5 in his last seventeen games dating back to the 4-2 loss to the Avalanche.
Atlanta’s penalty kill unit has suffered quite a bit with the likes of Kane and Slater on the mend. They surrendered two more power play goals on four attempts to the Canes after allowing five on three man advantage situations by the Maple Leafs in the previous outing. In the past four games the Thrashers have given up 9 power play goals to their opposition.
Disorganized, disoriented, sloppy, tired, unorganized…these are all words that can describe the PK of late.
Ondrej Pavelec stopped 30 of the 34 Hurricanes shots he faced. However one of the best saves of the day came in the first period from…Zach Bogosian. Bogey misplayed a pass across the defensive zone from linemate Ron Hainsey and it kicked off his skate right on Pavelec’s goal. Had the Atlanta goalie not been paying attention…shaking head and sighing heavily…oh good lord, I don’t even want to think of it.
Opie is now 15-9-5 on the season with a 2.33 GAA and .930 SV%.
On the positive side of the story…Atlanta did manage to eek out at least a point by getting the game into overtime after finding themselves on the wrong end of a 3-1 score in the second period. Unlike the disaster that was the 9-3 loss to Toronto two night’s prior, they found a way to collect themselves and work their way back into the game.
Bryan Little had a pair of goals, one on the power play and the other tying the game halfway through the third period. After Anthony Stewart’s fine play along the boards launched Little through center ice, he powered his way up the right side and beat Canes’ backup netminder Justin Peters, who was making only his seventh start of the year.
Little finished the game with the pair of goals on three shots and a +1 rating. He now has 7 goals, 8 assists and is a +11 in the last 18 games.
Niclas Bergfors accounted for the other Thrashers goal. It also came while the Thrashers were a man up. He scored after accepting a nice pass from Andrew Ladd who had made a great move on the left boards to enter the zone. I’d give you the name of the Carolina player beaten by the Thrashers team captain on the play, but it’s tough when there is no name or number to be found since the player was completely undressed by Ladd crossing over the blue line.
The loss leaves Atlanta with 51 points after 45 games played and sitting in third place in the division and seventh in the conference. The Canes now have 46 points having played just 41 games. Though they are still 5 points behind the Thrashers and below the cutoff line for the playoffs, the Canes do have those four games in hand.
To put it in a different light, Atlanta has a .567 points-winning percentage, which puts them on pace for right at 93 points. Carolina now has a .561 PW%, placing them on course for 92 points. It’s just that close right now.
So, the Thrashers indeed need to use this little winter respite to rest up and heal. Because with things tightening up…and division leading teams such as the Flyers and Stars waiting for them on the backside of the break…they’ll certainly need it. And it really could not have come at a better time.