Distance between Thrashers and Lotterypickville getting shorter

Last night the Atlanta Thrashers were spared the indignity of dropping yet another rung on the NHL standings ladder. Had the New Jersey Devils continued their winning ways against the Ottawa Senator they would have jumped over the Thrashers and moved them down to 12th place in the Eastern Conference. It would have also left them with the 6th fewest points in the NHL standing…just one position out of being a lottery pick team in this summers draft.

Instead, the last place Senators edged the Devils 2-1 and the Thrashers remain in 11th place in the east and just two clicks north of Lotterypickville’s city limits. It’s a distance that has continued to shrink over the last few weeks as we’ve traveled down the road that is the second half of this NHL season.

Going into tonight’s game in Carolina, Atlanta remains seven points out of a possible playoff spot. And while some still cling to the ever-fading hopes that a playoff run is possible, the sad fact here is that there is a much greater chance that they’ll have the team’s logo affixed to one of the ping-pong balls to determine the exact order of the first five picks in this June’s draft.

Dustin Byfulgien, seen here in action against Jeff Skinner and the Hurricanes last February 13, will not play tonight in Carolina. It will be the first game he's missed all season (AJC photo/Curtis Compton)

Dustin Byfulgien, seen here in action against the Hurricanes Jeff Skinner last February 13, will not play tonight in Carolina. It will be the first game he's missed all season (AJC photo/Curtis Compton)

That’s because the Florida Panthers pulled to within two points of the Thrashers Tuesday night by snapping the Chicago Blackhawks eight-game winning streak with a 3-2 win. At the same time, the New York Islanders were knocking off the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime.

New York now is but three points behind Atlanta, however they have played two more games.

Had the Colorado Avalanche found a way to knock off the Minnesota Wild last night, instead of losing 5-2,then we’d be looking at only being just three points ahead of the 28th place team in the league. Or, as some would say, three points away from having at least a chance at winning the number-one overall pick.

All this means is that unless they can find a way to pull some points from tonight’s tilt with the Hurricanes, the NHL standings floor could continue to creep up a little closer. Yes, only seven points separates the Thrashers from a playoff position… but seven points in the opposite direction is a spot in the bottom three and a chance for the #1 overall pick in the draft.

The Canes go into tonight’s matchup only one point south of the eighth place Buffalo Sabres and three north of the tenth place Leafs, so they’re fighting to keep their place in the list of teams still legitimately in the race. They haven’t played since losing 5-2 to the Hawks Friday night.

The Thrashers will go into the game without defenseman Dustin Byfuglien for the first time this season. He didn’t even make the trip to Raleigh with the team yesterday and is listed with a “lower body injury” and is day to day. Buff took a shot during Saturday night’s overtime win over the Panthers and seemed to be in a serious amount of pain on the bench afterwards, although he was bale to continue.

That was a good thing too, because he tallied assists on three of the team’s four goals Saturday night, including setting up Andrew Ladd’s winner in overtime. He also had the primary assists on both of Blake Wheelers goals and finished the game with a +2 rating with 9 shots on goal.

Byfuglien remains second on the team in overall scoring. His 19 goals and 30 assists for 49 points is just one behind Ladd, who has 25 goals and 25 assists.

Having Buff out of the lineup certainly doesn’t help. But the rest of the lineup will have to find a way to deal with it…or the buffer between them and Lotterpickville will continue to erode away.

108 comments Add your comment

Jason

March 9th, 2011
5:12 pm

Really don’t think Chara should have gotten a suspension, so glad he didn’t. The issue I have, which I think is like most people have, is why it’s so uneven when it comes to what is worth a suspension and what isn’t? Seemingly as well, most all of the favorable “no suspension” moves are favoring the superstar-based teams like Boston and Pittsburgh. Let’s not forget Eager getting suspended for his “sucker punch” on Colby Armstrong while Lucic got nothing a couple of weeks earlier when he did something similar to Modin (? – I don’t remember if it was Modin or not, just insert a 3rd liner playing top line minutes for us there if I’m wrong).

Matt Cooke gets nothing, but Gillies gets 9+10 because he’s deemed a “4th line goon” playing for the Islanders. As I read on the hockeyfights.com Facebook status, Zdeno Gillies gets 42 games for the hit last night.

ZAvalanche

March 9th, 2011
5:20 pm

@ Jason I love Canada. Gorgeous place, great people. I just don’t want one of my teams to move. I cheered equally as hard for CAN when they won Gold as I would have if USA did (almost). Epic. Most of the posters here have no issue with Canada and appreciate your even tone – very much so. We just don’t want hockey out of the south. Cheers on your Canucks, they are brutally good this year, and I will add that I was wrong about the Sedins. They turned out to be quite good, no Forsberg, but pretty good. Good luck in the playoffs, we will see you in the Finals next year :)

Freddy Meyer

March 9th, 2011
5:25 pm

That bastard Lucic! Why I oughta…just faint. Damn.

World Be Free

March 9th, 2011
5:32 pm

Jason and others-part of the problem with Chara’s suspension or no suspension is the lack of a real system for punishing such incidents. If we had a real system, it would be easier to judge these situations. The problem is Colin Campbell’s rulebook changes like a lava lamp, ever moving not knowing where it is going to end up. Rarely can we all agree that an issue is settle fairly. Similar issues in pro football, the lack of established rule of law. NFL players were chirping about it all season.

The players and management have to come to agreement on the isuues. Good luck.

Red Light

March 9th, 2011
5:35 pm

I know this won’t be a popular post, but here goes…

If you outlawed checking within six feet of the boards, thereby only allowing open-ice hits from the front only, much of this would go away.

Ice Puckies

March 9th, 2011
5:46 pm

Another lottery pick — only this time it will be for Winnepeg!!

glovesave29

March 9th, 2011
5:51 pm

RL – or severely fine / penalize the players for checking when extending the elbow or fist. Lead with the shoulder, and tuck in the elbow.

Campbell should have excused himself from this meeting as his son plays for the team. He has deputies….pass this one down to him.

Considering what we read in the Canadian press, along with their refusal to post our comments on their blogs – I think our positions are quite tame and well thought out. TSN and Sportsnet just break down into childish name calling and taunts. We discuss issues and do it quite well, in my opinion…

SomaAtl95

March 9th, 2011
5:59 pm

@Jason – Look @ Ice Puckies. Thats what we hate. The Peg lost a team, so did Atlanta. We’d love a team there, not at the expense of another team. Why not support expansion?

Brendan

March 9th, 2011
6:19 pm

Red Light, and if you outlawed fighting, by accompanying mandatory 10-game suspensions, fighting would disappear. And with it, some of the real enjoyment of the game. I don’t think anyone wants players to get hurt, but big, punishing, crushing blows/hits are what excite the crowd and spark teammates to play harder.

I’m someone who would enjoy hockey, even without the fighting and hitting. I’d still pay to see it, watered down from its present format. But I much prefer to have the fighting and the bone-crunching, organ grinding hits.

AtlFlamesFan

March 9th, 2011
6:21 pm

While I agree that there has been some inconsistancies in the way the league has handled suspensions, I believe that the decision not to suspend Chara is correct.

Prior to the lock-out season when the definition of interference was changed, the Chara hit definitely would not have drawn a penalty.

Under current rules, since the check occured so soon after Pacioretty played the puck, it could be argued that it was not interference and therefore no penalty. Indeed, if it would have happened on the penalty box side of the ice and resulted in no injury, probably no penalty would have been called. However, because it happened where it did, its results were devestating.

Since the referee decided it was interference, and because it did result in an injury, then a 5 minute penalty is appropriate.

It is extremely unfortunate that it happened where it did, resulting in a terrible injury. However, there was obviously no intent to injure; just a hockey play, riding the player into the boards.

No suspension is the correct result.

Not Blind

March 9th, 2011
6:27 pm

The NHL made the right call on Chara. The description that Murphy provided in the story is exactly what I saw. Chara basically squeezed Paciorety into the boards by angling him off. He didn’t actually body check him. Chara had the angle and Paciorety chose to go into a bad spot.

As for it being a late hit, tonight the Thrashers are playing a team that specializes in late hits.

Buff-n-stuff

March 9th, 2011
6:31 pm

anyone notice…….the overall activity level and the sheer number of comments on “ALL THRASHER’S BLOGS” is WAY DOWN over the past week…….

….Have most of you out there given up hope ??

kracker

March 9th, 2011
6:40 pm

Is this the last gasp tonight??? Anything shy of regulation wins against any team in front or tied with us pretty much shuts the door. Same for zero point games vs all teams. Given our recent record, even tho the level of play has been a bit better, I’m not very hopeful of going on a point streak.

Sucks to maybe again have to hope we get lucky in the lottery w/ the 3-4-5 worst record. At least it looks fairly likely that the team will remain in Atlanta beyond the next season.

Getting the Cap, Wheeler, Z-bo and Stewart all extended would send a big stability message and make me feel considerably better about the future.

MASHAPlayer7

March 9th, 2011
6:40 pm

Not only are the people ugly in Winnipeg, they can’t even spell their own damn city right!

Hockey Biltong

March 9th, 2011
6:58 pm

WBF- I just bought tix thru Tillers hyperlink and will be putting some kind of tape or message on my RED Favourite Sweater!!!!!
Geaux Thrashers!!!!!!

AtlFlamesFan

March 9th, 2011
7:19 pm

Robbie Schremp is an offensive talent! I do not know why he has struck out twice already. I have not seen any issues in the defensive zone.

sisu

March 9th, 2011
7:34 pm

The league made the right call on Chara, neither team had an issue with the hit so why should the league? If you watched coaches corner Saturday something similar was discussed about boards that would ably to this partition issue that caused the injury, not Chara…

sisu

March 9th, 2011
7:36 pm

Oh and I think the next great center for the Thrashers already scored a goal, he could become the #1 center! He had a falling out in Edmonton but has played well elsewhere…

ZAvalanche

March 9th, 2011
7:38 pm

RL, I kind of agree, Drastically reduce the bad hits. yes. But the guys who want to mow somebody don’t care where it happens. I say make the fine significantly higher. It hurts their pocket books.

kracker

March 9th, 2011
7:42 pm

2 zip good guys. Me likey.

AtlFlamesFan

March 9th, 2011
7:54 pm

Maybe they can re-design the glass on the benches. In between them, maybe have the stanchions a foot or two back from the boards. And on the blue line side of the benches, have the glass tapered.

I remember back in the 70’s, Atlanta Flame Larry Romanchyck hit the stanchions on a similar play. Amazingly, he came back later in the game.

AtlFlamesFan

March 9th, 2011
8:10 pm

Latest article by Chris V on potential new owners. 3 for Thrashers only; 2 for Hawks Thrash and Philips.

http://www.ajc.com/sports/atlanta-thrashers/three-entities-in-discussions-866892.html

ranallo10 (in AT)

March 9th, 2011
8:24 pm

I’m sorry to do this, but it really seems to me that nobody has read some of the direct quotes from
MIKE MURPHY (I put his name in all caps because, contrary to what most people here are saying, Colin Campbell did NOT have anything to do with this ruling due to the fact his son is on the Bruins … and I honestly find it ridiculous that you’d consider the NHL is playing favorites due to someone’s son being on a team.)

“I conducted a hearing with Boston Bruins’ defenceman Zdeno Chara with respect to the major penalty for interference and game misconduct that he was assessed at 19:44 of the second period for a hit on Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens,” NHL vice-president of hockey operations Mike Murphy said in a statement.

“After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline. This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly — with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards,” continued Murphy. “I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous.

“This was a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion and then the ice surface. In reviewing this play, I also took into consideration that Chara has not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year NHL career.”

Seriously, what can you argue with there? This person has more replays available to him than any of us do, has more hockey knowledge than the majority of us, understands exactly what precedents he must work with when coming to a fair ruling, and ultimately decided that the incidental nature of the situation, the track record of the player involved, and the on-ice discipline incurred out-weighed the unfortunate injury that occurred.

I would’ve understood had the NHL chosen to give a 2 game suspension, but I absolutely do not disagree with anything that Mike Murphy stated in the above quote. I have to side with the NHL on this one.

litz

March 9th, 2011
8:25 pm

“Two groups, one individual” …

Let the speculation begin!

The previous article broke the rumor that one of the interested parties was Ludicrous, Usher, and Bieber (yes, everyone’s favorite canadian teenager … who probably has wet dreams thinking about owning an NHL team; that’s gotta be any canadian kid’s ultimate fantasy) …

ranallo10 (in AT)

March 9th, 2011
8:26 pm

@AtlFlamesFan — That’s definitely nice news to read. I’m trying not to let my hopes get raised by any of these pieces of news, but in a sea full of “Thrashers to Winnipeg/Quebec City/[insert Canadian city]” stories it’s nice to see a piece of good news once in a while.

AtlFlamesFan

March 9th, 2011
8:37 pm

I wonder if there is anything to this Bieber thing. I can’t imagine him having the money himself, but teaming up with his mentor, Usher? I’m pretty sure that before Bieber hit it big, while he still lived here in Marietta, he played in the local ice hockey leagues. He probably was a big Thrasher fan.

Twisted Wrister

March 9th, 2011
8:38 pm

God help us, Waddell is handling negotiations on the sale process.

He has ruined the team for ten years, now he can finish us off.

Jason

March 9th, 2011
9:26 pm

Did Bogosian forget which blue line he was supposed to be playing when Cole scored the equalizer?

P.s. – Shocking, I know, but there are a lot of people in the world named Jason. There’s one from Canada that posted earlier, then there’s me that had post #51, lurks around a lot, posts occasionally, etc. Just a point of clarification for everyone

kracker

March 9th, 2011
9:31 pm

Well, we got 2 big points in OT…gotta hope that helps us a little. Really needed the reg win, tho. Sweet OT period and a great Hainsey pass to the crease to a streaking Stapleton!!! Thinking it’s too little, too late…..but any win feels good.

AtlFlamesFan

March 9th, 2011
9:33 pm

Bogo? Toby was the one responsible for the goal, not Zach.

Jason

March 9th, 2011
9:39 pm

AtlFlamesFan – What’s Bogosian doing lurking around the offensive blue line then? Tougher to get a break-in against two D-men as opposed to one.

AtlFlamesFan

March 9th, 2011
9:50 pm

Bogo pinched in and was covered by a wing. There was plenty of support back. As Elliot stated on the replay: Toby was caught flat footed. No way there’s any blame on Zach.

KLS1

March 9th, 2011
9:55 pm

Somebody please buy this team…Don please sell!

LAC

March 9th, 2011
9:59 pm

Nice win tonight. Postma looked very very good. Now time for zach to finally go.

Did everyone see Stillman take the puck away from zach along the boards, and pass to Cole ? Little zach just stood there looking around like always. Those who say his play has improved… NOT !
Still the same and I see no real possibility of improvement.

But, Why is it, We CANNOT HIT Erik Cole and knock him on his BUTT ? This guy is fairly soft, hit him and it affects his play, we never touch him ? Why ? He has killed us all season and again tonight got them a point against us. Just awful the way we allow him to waltz around every game without touching him.

Donovan McNubb

March 9th, 2011
10:20 pm

LAC, you can’t hit what you can’t catch. Cole is fast as hell.

And I hate him. Such a Thrasher killer.

Wish we had won in regulation tonight. We have to make up ground.

Alan R.

March 9th, 2011
10:24 pm

Re Chara, I think a lot of people didn’t see this.

http://twitpic.com/47se2y

That’s right. That’s Chara’s hand on Pacioretty’s head. “Hockey play” my ass.

Brendan

March 9th, 2011
10:29 pm

Marty St. Louis, with maybe the best shootout goal of the season, for the win vs. Chicago tonight. Capital won, 5-0, I think, over Edmonton.

Okay, I listened to the 1st period of this game on the radio. And then, a life event took over. I tuned in to hear these famous words, “Due to the length of the previous program, we now join our regularly scheduled program, now in progress.” So, basically, I missed everything after Schremp’s goal. I saw the highlights on OTF. We get our first winning streak since early January. Yay!

See? See?? What’d I tell ya? Play loose, like you have nothing to lose, and you’ll start to win. Now, there were troubling things about this game. First, once again, Atlanta blows a 2 goal lead, in a game where they scored first. And, as we didn’t have Byfuglien in the building, someone ELSE would have to get an OT winner. Never in a million years … would I think that person is Tim Stapleton. But, what the hey! It’s Stapleton’s second goal of the season. Good for Tim.
Second, Thrashers were outshot. And in the 3rd period, were essentially dominated by Carolina. Once OT started, the Thrashers turned it up.

The replay of this game is at 2AM, if you nightowls want to stay up for it, or TiVo it, or DVR it, or tape it. Man, it feels good to finally beat Carolina. And Erik Cole had to settle for a GTG instead of his usual GWG. I suppose, theoretically, Atlanta’s playoff hopes are still alive. On the season, the team is back to .500.

Devils must be stewing, after that loss to Ottawa, which stings more by the second.

So, no suspension for Chara. I think they couldn’t prove ‘intent to injure.’ Chara is free, with ‘time served.’ Which was … a 5-minute major and an ejection. I guess the prevailing thinking here is … if the player hadn’t been injured, it’s just a penalty. But, he was injured. So, the next question is, “deliberately?” Chara’s a big guy. And there is prior history there, between the two players. In the end, the NHL could not determine ‘intent.’ Suspension of the remainder of that game … ostensibly … qualifies as ‘time served.’ The Bruins exhale, as they are in the hunt for the # 1 seed in the East. Chara is their Tier I blueliner, anchoring the top pairing.

Joe Friday

March 9th, 2011
11:13 pm

“That’s Chara’s hand on Pacioretty’s head. “Hockey play” my ass.”

Yep. To not see that Chara rode him in there and threw his head against the support is just blind, but that’s the NHL for ya. I watched the reply several times in slow motion and it was dirty, plain and simple.

Nice comeback by the boys, but how does Enstrom get himself caught so far out of position late in the game you have to win? Awful. He was backpedaling into no man’s land on the Canes other goal as well. He’s a fine offensive passing dman that needs to be playing #3 minutes for us and on the PP, get a Bieksa, skate him with Bogosian next year, drop Enstrom to 3, move Buf up front and we’ve much improved defensively. Bogo is improving again, which is great to see. Postma had a nice first game as well.

Someone has to teach Kane some new tricks though, mabye a big body like Buf on his off wing might open up some ice for him.

Red Light

March 9th, 2011
11:19 pm

Joe Friday’s broken record is playing loudly again!

kracker

March 9th, 2011
11:19 pm

Chara is a “star”, the ‘Big Guy’ defenseman, the ‘Hardest Shot’ winner, a Force in the game on an O-6 team, so….nothing, no sanction. Should have been two games at least. If Buff does that as a Thrasher, he gets harshly dealt with, ala Andy Sutton

Joe Friday

March 9th, 2011
11:31 pm

“Joe Friday’s broken record is playing loudly again!”

Now, now, don’t be upset at me because your boy wonder Enstrom crapped the bed defensively again, he’s awful against the rush, always has been. It was nice to see him take some shots on goal and pot the one but I was disappointed that he didn’t allow it all to happen for Bogo tonight, I was expecting a 4 pt night from him, mabye next game?

Joe Friday

March 9th, 2011
11:33 pm

“God help us, Waddell is handling negotiations on the sale process.”

I had the same thought. He’s got to get something right eventually though, right? Right?!?

Brendan

March 9th, 2011
11:44 pm

I do wonder if the trolls from Manitoba know what the word karma means. If, next Fall, there isn’t a team in Winnipeg, they might, without needing the consultation of a dictionary.

Brendan

March 9th, 2011
11:47 pm

Kari Lehtonen has kept the Stars in tonight’s game with Calgary. The Flames led, 3-0. But Dallas has battled back to a shootout. Let’s see if Kari prevails.

Red Light, question for you. “Is this Kari Lehtonen’s best season in the NHL?”

Brendan

March 9th, 2011
11:52 pm

Curtis Glencross, with a “perfect shot,” bests Lehtonen for the win, for Calgary. By the way, Rebeiro’s shootout goal rivaled Marty St. Louis’ tonight. Nasty, nasty “fake” backhand, to the forehand flip. What a goal. Rebeiro had to score, too, or Dallas loses. Turns out … they lost anyway. But that was a sweet goal.

Smoothie

March 10th, 2011
12:04 am

Waddell’s been tasked to fluff the groups interested in just the Thrashers while The Balkan works out his back room deal for the whole ball o’ wax. But I reckon the A$G thinks they can drive up the price on The Balkan by making it seem like the other three have a chance. If one of them does somehow work out a deal for just the Thrashers, God help them cuz they will get sued as soon as they are one day late with the lease payment. We need The Balkan to be a true financial baller.

Enstom’s always been horrible on the rush!? Ha ha wow, good laugh. How many times has he broken up a one on one with his stick or taken away the passing lane with a diving poke check.

But okay, Buff doesn’t need any help, just tiger blood to go with his Adonis body!

Brendan

March 10th, 2011
12:07 am

The # 7 seeded NY Rangers are losting, 2-1, out in Anaheim tonight.

Out West, I do hope the Kings and Coyotes make the playoffs. For the Coyotes, drawing anyone but Detroit would work. Not too sure drawing Vancouver would be much better, for Phoenix. I see Nashville’s GA and goal differential … and I wonder how it is that they find themselves OUTSIDE of the playoff bubble.

Charlie Sheen

March 10th, 2011
12:09 am

Winning, duh!!

Alan R.

March 10th, 2011
12:18 am

JF – According to the article from C-Viv, Waddell is only dealing with the three who want just the Thrashers. So, even if he screws those up, there are three others who aren’t being tainted by D-Wad.

Either way, they all want to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta. This is something I’m grateful for.

Alan R.

March 10th, 2011
12:22 am

As someone on HFboards said tonight, “I think that we can all agree that Erik Cole is a better owner of the Thrasher’s than ASG.”