The Thrashers traditionally have problems with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Counting the two losses to them this season, they're 11-26-0-5 all time against them. So far this season, they're less 0-2 to the Penguins as a team and more 0-2 to Evgeny Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Geno has three goals against the Thrash this team, all in the Penguins' November 13th 4-3 win. Crosby scored one in that game, and then scored all three goals in the Penguins 3-2 win over the Thrashers on December 2nd.
So, the key to tonight's game is to cover the two of them, right? Easier said than done. Crosby is riding a 24 game point streak right now, and is having yet another career season in a career apparently filled with them. He leads the league with 61 points (eleven over second place Steven Stamkos) and 30 goals in just 37 games. Malkin's season isn't as bright as Crosby's - he has 13 goals and 19 assists in 32 games - but he's still playing extremely well, and can steamroll the opposition when required.
What do the Thrashers have up their sleeve? Patrice Cormier. The former captain of the Canadian World Junior team, Cormier recently returned to action in November for the Chicago Wolves. The center broke his foot during rookie camp in September blocking a shot in a scrimmage game that his team was losing. So far with the Wolves, Cormier is 2-3-5 with a +8 rating in just 11 games. He and Alex Burmistrov, who has been struggling lately, hit it off during prospect camp. Hopefully having Cormier up will give Burmistrov a bit of a spark. Cormier has a presence on the ice that's older than his age, quickly becoming a leader at camp and noticeably having a positive influence over the other youngsters. He'll be centering Ben Eager and Fredrik Modin tonight, so look for two big and bruising lines at the Thrashers back end between this one and the Greek Gods. The other two lines are:
As mentioned, Nik Antropov did not make the trip to Pittsburgh, and Tim Stapleton was returned to the Chicago Wolves. A goal for tonight is not only to win, but to break a three game losing streak and to get the once-first overall powerplay back into working condition. That'll be easier said than done, considering that Pittsburgh's penalty kill is first in the league at 87.3%.
It's also easier said than done considering that Penguins goalie Marc Andre Fleury is playing outstanding hockey, going 7-2-0 with a 2.03 GAA and a .930SV%.