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Thrashers Kick Off Western Swing in L.A. + NHL Notes

Posted By Kevin Thurston On Oct 12 2010 @ 4:20 pm In All Sports | 1 Comment

The Atlanta Thrashers are on their first big road trip of the year, and it starts tonight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as they face a Kings team that is on the rise. They’ll stick around the SoCal area until Friday night when they face the Anaheim Ducks, who appear to be in some trouble early on. A quick turnaround will put them in San Jose the very next night, where they will undoubtedly be tested in all aspects of the game by Dany Heatley and the always-formidable Sharks.

It will be a tough three-game test for coach Craig Ramsay and his new-look Thrashers. However, if they can pull 3 out of 6 points from bruising Western Conference action, I, along with many other fans, would consider it a positive sign for an Atlanta club that is still working the kinks out of Ramsay’s new style and player-to-player chemistry. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like 5 or 6 points on the trip!

Speaking of “new-look,” Thrashers media-man and web-guy Ben Wright had some intriguing notes for fans on his Blueland Blog [1]. Among the interesting points were management’s insistence on using flight time to organize video and have sit-down meetings with the players. Apparently that wasn’t quite the case with previous coaching staffs. If your a Thrashers fan, you’ve got to like that Ramsay and his cohorts will exhaust every available minute preparing for each game. Check out the Blueland Blog for more real-time notes coming from the road. Wright is traveling with the team.

According to Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Chris Vivlamore, coach Ramsay and his staff have been thoroughly impressed with rookie Alexander Burmistrov’s performance through two games, and if he keeps it up, they’ll most likely keep him beyond the 9-game tryout window. While it is exciting to hear that Burmistrov is adjusting to the NHL game quickly, it will pose some interesting roster questions upon the return of injured centerman Jim Slater (wrist). I wouldn’t get too giddy on any trade rumors, but perhaps a guy like Anthony Stewart may end up in AHL affiliate Chicago when all is said and done.

One area I’d like to see improvement is in the face off circle. Yes, only two games have been played, but the guys down the middle need to improve the 47.5% mark they’ve combined for so far. The only player to be above average in the circle through two games is Bryan Little, which is surprising given that he’s spent the past two seasons on the wing. Nik Antropov is averaging a dismal 41.7%. With his size and experience, we should expect Big Nik to have better numbers at the puck-drop.

And in case you hadn’t heard, Ondrej Pavelec has been released from the hospital and is recovering from a concussion he suffered when his head hit the ice last Friday against the capitals. The team released a statement saying Pavelec suffered a fainting spell that led to his odd and scary collapse. The story was headlined on several major sports media outlets. Hopefully the Thrashers can earn more positive press-time through the season. Goaltender Peter Mannino has been called up from AHL affiliate Chicago and will backup Chris Mason tonight in Los Angeles. If Mason struggles, it’s not inconceivable that Mannino could get the start friday night in Anaheim. Mannino posted fantastic numbers in Chicago last year, with a 25-5-1 record and a .921 save percentage.

IN MY OPINION:

Coach Ramsay stated prior to the season that he would rotate assistant captains for awhile before thinking about naming a captain. So far, Nik Antropov, Andrew Ladd, and Johnny Oduya have been wearing the A on their sweaters. However, I’m looking for Evander Kane to step up and become the leader of the team and the face of the franchise. Through two games he eclipses every other Thrashers player in shots on goal with 12 (good for 6th in the entire league). He has 2 goals, an even +/- rating and 5 hits. According to The Falconer over at Bridwatchers Anonymous [2], Ramsay has upped Kane’s ice-time from last year by nearly 4 minutes. (Check out the link for some very interesting number-crunching from Falconer.) On Friday, he wanted the penalty shot against Capitals goalie Michael Neuvirth and Ramsay apparently had no qualms giving it to him. Kane scored and it stood up as the game-winner. There’s little doubt in my mind that Kane is going to be the captain of the team at some point, but if he keeps up the pace, I’d like to see it given to him sooner than later.

NHL NOTES:

-Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson has been subjected to a disciplinary hearing for an absolutely brutal hit on Sabres forward Jason Pominville last night. However, the hit was totally clean and I’d be surprised if Hjalmarsson gets any punishment. Pominville spent 15 minutes laying on the ice and was eventually taken off via stretcher. He was diagnosed with a concussion and is sidelined indefinitely.

-Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski is also at the center of disciplinary attention for an obscene gesture towards Sean Avery in yesterday’s matinee matchup on Long Island…..Can’t say I’m too upset about that one.

- The New Jersey Devils find themselves mired in Salary Cap issues and are forced to play a shorthanded roster because of it. That’s what happens when you sign a “superstar” to twice the term and salary he’s worth. In my opinion, the Devils would be a much more formidable opponent had they kept the cash they spent on Kovalchuk and used it on proven role players to compliment the likes of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Patrik Elias. That’s how the Devils won their championships. I can’t help but wonder if Devils brass has lost sight of a championship mentality. Kovalchuk is -3 through 3 games, in which the Devils have posted a 0-2-1 record.

Thanks for reading. Follow me @gsukevin on Twitter for hockey-related commentary.

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URLs in this post:

[1] Blueland Blog: http://bluelandblog.com/

[2] Bridwatchers Anonymous: http://www.birdwatchersanonymous.com/2010/10/12/1746800/how-is-coach-ramsay-using-his-roster

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