As of right now, you can just about stick a fork in the Atlanta Thrashers for the 2009-2010 season. With three games remaining, the Thrashers sit in 10th place, two-points out of 8th (technically three since the Thrashers do not win the tiebreaker.) To make matters worse, the final three games are against the East Elite (New Jersey, Washington, Pittsburgh). Of the teams remaining in the East playoff race, the Thrashers have the fewest games left to play. Furthermore, the fact that the New York Rags and the Philly flyers face eachother in a home-and-home to close the season guarantees that one or both of those teams will be taking home points to add cushion to their lead over Atlanta.
However, Tuesday will still make for an interesting contest. Ilya Kovalchuk returns to his former city to face the Thrashers in their first meeting since the blockbuster trade that sent him to New Jersey. Here’s what Kovy had to say to NJ.com:
“I hope they’re not going to boo me because we have a great relationship all my career there,” Kovalchuk said with a smile. “I did everything I can for that organization. It was just time to move on.”
In terms of booing, I’m sure there will be a mixed reaction from the crowd. I’m positive some boo-birds will show up, but I also think there are plenty of fans that don’t blame Kovalchuk for closing up shop here in ATL.
Here’s another thought: Do any Thrashers players take a run at Kovalchuk?
I wouldn’t be surprised. The rumors have been floating around that perhaps Kovalchuk really wasn’t a popular guy in the Atlanta locker room. In an effort to pump up support for the new/improved (this is up for debate) Thrashers, Anderson and his squad might want to put a good hit on the former Captain. Perhaps Zach Bogosian, but the 19-year old Sophomore Slump Superstar seems to only get physical when his own glass case of emotion gets encroached upon. Pavel Kubina had a heated matchup with Kovalchuk in the Czech-Russian olympic contest where the two talked miles of trash to eachother, but Kubina is injured and won’t be able to continue the battle. Colby Armstrong, who has a penchant for questionable open-ice hits, is actually suspended for a hit he delivered in Washington last thursday. So if the Thrashers put out a ‘burn notice’ on Kovy, it will be interesting to see who executes, if at all.
Not that I wish any harm on Kovalchuk, but it would a nice little end-of-the-disappointing-season gift if the Thrashers glued him to the glass for a moment.
In other news, Tobias Enstrom is the first Thrashers defenseman to reach the 50-point mark. He did so with an assist in Pittsburgh on Saturday. He has 6 goals and 44 assists on the year. Hats off to the 24-year-old Enstrom. A quiet star in the league, Enstrom exemplifies the best in puck-moving defense. Force a turnover, obtain the puck, move it up the ice on the first try, and join the rush. He makes up for his lack of size with his ability to see the ice and play a strong fundamental game. Good for Toby.
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Written by Kevin Thurston