Thrashers End Pre-Season The Same Way They Spent It: With A One Goal Loss

Meyers, Dawes, and Enstrom provide firepower for an offense that hasn't gelled yet.

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Thrashers End The Preseason Tonight

The line-up is all but set, and the Thrashers’ goaltending and defense looks ready to go for the season. Every pre-season game save for the first one (the 5-2 loss to Columbus) has been a one-goal loss, the shots on goal have been moderately good, and the quality scoring chances for the opposition have been severely limited. The vets look a bit off, possibly due to communication issues, but the kids fighting for the last defensive spot are still making Craig Ramsay’s job hard.

That is, except for Boris Valabik, who is a scratch tonight and looks to have played himself out of contention for the position of 7th defenseman. Freddy Meyer, Artus Kulda, and Andrey Zubarev are all neck and neck for that position.

Chris Mason’s starting tonight against a familiar opponent for him. He was 3-2 against the Blue Jackets last season, with a 2.16 GAA and a .916 SV%.

Ben Wright from the Blueland Blog has tonight’s line-pairings:

Forwards:
Ladd- Little- Thorburn
Kane- Peverley- Bergfors
Modin- Burmistrov- Dawes
Boulton- Rissmiller- Stewart

Defense:
Enstrom- Meyer
Kulda- Hainsey
Zubarev- Bogosian

Goal:
Mason
Pavelec

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Nik Antropov's Goal Not Enough For Thrashers

Yet again, the Thrashers managed a one goal loss this pre-season, dropping a 2-1 decision in overtime to the Carolina Hurricanes. Nik Antropov scored the lone Atlanta goal in the games final 1:03, but it wasn’t enough for the win.

Ondrej Pavelec stopped 28 of 30 shots on goal, giving his team more than enough of a chance to win. Goaltending has been strong this pre-season save for the first game, and the defense has not been allowing shots from quality scoring areas. The offense is what has failed the team. The Thrashers have been out-scored 14-7 this pre-season. A lot can be attributed to adjusting to a different system, a new coach, or on-the-fly line tweaks, but with only one more pre-season game left, something needs to be fixed ASAP before the season opener on Friday, October 8th.

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Last Home Game Until The Regular Season Opener Ends With Another Loss

Rough loss tonight for the Thrashers. The combination of a third period softie by Chris Mason that trickled in behind him and the increasingly obligatory Ron Hainsey goalie screen kept the Thrashers from winning their first pre-season game.

That’s not entirely true. Puck possession and the inability to breakout of their own zone yet again held the team back. Coach Craig Ramsay preaches breakouts and carrying the puck out into the opposition’s zone. In theory, if you either have the puck or are attempting to control it in their zone, the other team is less likely to score. That stands to reason, but the fans have yet to see that gameplan in action. Turnovers at the blueline and an inability to control the puck when fighting for it made the Thrashers appear sluggish, and – as the gentlemen behind me put it – look like they were permanently on the penalty kill.

Two of the goals that Nashville scored were powerplay goals, so the PK left a little to be desired as well. Of course, you do have to keep in mind that Ramsay’s still trying to get lines set and see who plays well with whom (note: Tobias Enstrom and Freddy Meyer do not work). The special teams will take a bit to get worked out. The Thrashers won’t be set to play the Capitals in the home opener until the roster is set, and that is probably a week away.

A pleasant sight on the ice tonight was the return of hulking center Nik Antropov, who humorously centered Fredrik Pettersson and Modin, making both of them (especially Pettersson) look like mite players in comparison.

The grinders – Dawes, Ben Eager, and defenseman Meyer – did the scoring tonight, while the scoring up front is still trying to get chemistry working again. There hasn’t been the click between two players since Pettersson and Bryan Little teamed up in game one. Hopefully we’ll see more of that Friday afternoon at 1:30 in Carolina.

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Thrashers Get One More Shot At Winning At Home

Tonight's game against the Nashville Predators (7:00 at Philips Arena) is the last home game of the pre-season for the Thrashers. It's been a disappointing one. They're winless in three games and have only scored three goals thus far.  The lines have been juggled every game, the line-ups have been different, and Nik Antropov's been out nursing a hurt hip.

Luckily, Antro will be back tonight to see if he can spark some of the Thrashers' weak offense. Coach Craig Ramsay spoke with Chris Vivlamore of the AJC yesterday regarding the return of Antropov:

“He looks really good,” Ramsay said. “He feels ready. That would be great. We just have to get him a game. You can’t expect miracles. He’s a big, strong body and he has to start learning what we are doing. It’s one thing to practice it and another to carry it into a game.”

Hopefully he'll be able to carry even a tad. The Thrashers are dressing a full 23 man roster, though line pairings have not been released yet. Two players will be scratched:

Forwards (13): Antropov, Burmistrov, Dawes, Eager, Kane, Ladd, Little, Modin, Pettersson, Peverley, Rissmiller, Stewart, Thorburn.

Defense (7): Bogosian, Enstrom, Hainsey, Kulda, Meyer, Oduya, Sopel.

Goaltender (2): Mason, Pavelec

Notice Boris Valabik isn't dressing for the evening. He's not injured, and Kulda being dressed over Valabik again doesn't bode well for Big Boris. His skating's been slow and his positioning has been off horribly, but he's notorious for getting off to slow starts. This year that slow start might cost him a roster spot.

Pre-season might not mean a thing for the fans, but for some of these players it's the difference between an NHL and AHL contract.

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Mason Solid In Tough Loss

The upshot in games like tonight's 1-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes is that it doesn't count. If it were a regular season game, it'd be frustrating - almost heartbreaking - to see a team fight this much and barely come up short. When you take into consideration that it's a preseason game with kids who probably won't be making the roster against one of the top goalies in the league, you come out with a lot more to like.

There weren't any glaring goof-ups tonight. No awkward defensive positioning aside from a few flubs at the blue line, the lines shot - though none of the scoring chances were the best quality, the Thrashers ended with 32 SOG - and Chris Mason gave the team every chance that they could have to win the game. The only goal - which came within the first two minutes of the third period - was not the Chris Mason soft goal that Blues fans came to expect. Not from the point, and not with a clear line of sight. Jeff Skinner scored the only goal of the game on an odd bounce that caught Enstrom and Mason both out of position, though Mason was attempting to block the initial bounce before the rebound. There wasn't much to be done on the goal save for Mason scooting to his left a fraction of a bit quicker, but that probably wouldn't've been much help. Other than that one goal, Mason stopped 25 shots and was awarded the second star of the game in his first start in a Thrashers uniform.

One thing that was extremely noticeable was the determination of the play by the Thrashers. There was not one single period where the team laid back and tuned out, which is contrary to the last season, where they chose one period a game to not play. The offensive pressure never let up, and the breaks to Carolina's zone were more obvious and much more plentiful than they were on Tuesday. Brent Sopel and Dustin Byfuglien were more than willing to knock some 'Canes around (more on Buff in a second), and they were joined by rookies Fredrik Pettersson and Alex Burmistrov. Burmistrov was surprising in his tenacity, fighting for control of the puck whenever there were Carolina players around him, and more often than not the Thrashers retained possession.

Very unfortunately, Carolina forward Sergei Samsonov was injured when he fell into the boards on a tripping penalty on Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien was attempting to chip at the puck and Samsonov's stick to defend during a scoring situation when his stick became stuck in Samsonov's skates for a moment. 

Samsonov is returning to Carolina with the team with a sprained neck, but the injury on the ice looked dreadful, stopping play for seven or eight minutes while they got Samsonov on the stretcher.

The Thrashers cut four more players today, sending Peter Mannino and Drew MacIntyre to the Chicago Wolves along with Akim Aliu and Drew Sifers. As Ben Wright points out, all but Aliu have to clear waivers, and the Minnesota Wild could be looking for a solid back-up after Josh Harding's collision with Brad Boyes of the St. Louis Blues last night. Both Mannino and MacIntyre are excellent AHL goaltenders and could do in a pinch for the Wild if Harding is out long term.

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As Expected, Chris Mason To Start Tonight For Thrashers

To the surprise of very few people, the Thrashers' newest goaltender, Chris Mason, is scheduled to be the starting goaltender and to play the entire game tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes.  It's a home game, which usually means the NHL goaltenders play - and after Pavelec's game on Tuesday it's Mason's turn to fight for the position of starter. Mason was 1-0 last season against Carolina with a 2.00 GAA and a .944 SV%. The lack of experience should do him some favors, since Carolina shouldn't be as used to his tendencies as they were to Hedberg's and are to Pavelec's (2-2 against the Canes with a 3.77 GAA and a .877 SV%). 

Ben Wright of the Blueland Blog continues to spoil us with line-ups. The Thrasher submitted a full 23 man roster for the game tonight, so the scratches for tonight will be forthcoming. One of them will probably be Jim Slater, whose wrist is still bothering him.

Thrashers Line-Up:

10 Bryan Little
12 Patrick Rissmiller
16 Andrew Ladd
18 Niclas Bergfors
19 Fredrik Modin
20 Enver Lisin
21 Ben Eager
22 Anthony Stewart
27 Chris Thorburn
43 Riley Holzapfel
46 Spencer Machacek
47 Rich Peverley
49 Alex Burmistrov
56 Fredrik Pettersson


Defense
3 Brent Sopel
4 Zach Bogosian
5 Boris Valabik
26 Noah Welch
29 Johnny Oduya
33 Dustin Byfuglien
39 Tobias Enstrom


Goaltenders
50 Chris Mason
31 Ondrej Pavelec

 

As previously noted, tonight marks the premiere of Big Buff, Brent Sopel, and Andrew Ladd as well as Chris Mason. There will be no TV or radio broadcast, so if you want to see the newest Thrashers in action, you're going to have to come down to the game. Puck drops at 7:00.

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Bryan Little Has A Solid Night In 5-2 Loss

Very little went right past the second line during the Thrashers' loss last night.  The line of Nigel Dawes-Bryan Little-Fredrik Pettersson was outstanding, with both Little and Pettersson scoring the only two goals on the evening. Evander Kane also looked great with a team leading eight hits. Honestly, very little can be assessed during the first NHL pre-season game from the forwards. They haven't been practicing power play schematics during camp (yet still converted on one last night), and the lack of communication was very apparent last night. They didn't pressure and didn't break out of their own zone very often, which lead to scoring chances for the Blue Jackets' line-up of mostly rookies. 

Burmistrov looked good, though he did commit several turn-overs that should not have happened. Defensively, five of the six players out there are competing for the seventh defenseman slot, but it looked like Ron Hainsey wants it too. Hainsey was very unobservant and finished the evening at a -2 (as did Boris Valabik, Jamie Sifers, and Andrey Zubarev). One of the goals was directly his own fault as he was screening Ondrej Pavelec badly when Jonathan Sigalet scored. Twenty eight seconds later, Mike Blunden tipped in a shot past Pavelec, who was set for the original shot but not the redirection.

Valabik looked tentative, which is how he began the pre-season last year as well.  It apparently takes him a little while to get going, which is understandable, but right now Artus Kulda and Andrey Zubarev should have their names above his on the depth chart.  Zubabrev had some outstanding shifts with a good awareness of the play and placement of the puck.  Kulda proved again why last year's call-up of Chris Chelios was a mistake. There's no legitimate way that you can justify sending him to the AHL again this season. The seventh-rounder looked outstanding and will stick around until the last second of cuts.

Pavelec did not have a good evening.  Goalies take a while to get warmed up which is understandable, and apparently coach Craig Ramsay wanted to see how long it would take Pavelec to actually get into the groove of the game, leaving him in the entire game and keeping Drew MacIntyre on the bench.  The first two goals of the game can be written off, but the last three cannot. Pavs absolutely needs to get focused quickly to start the season out, both for the team's sake and for his own. Many performances like last night's and Chris Mason'll stay as a starter. Lack of communication and confusion is a legit excuse for the skaters, but it isn't for the goalie. Rebound control needs to be worked on, as does some basic awareness of where the puck is. Pavelec lost the puck and let it sit in the blue paint while he looked around for it for what seemed like eternity until Spencer Machacek noticed it and swatted it away. In a regular season game, that's a goal.

The Thrashers' next pre-season game is this Saturday at 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes. Expect to see Mason in goal.

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Pre-Season Begins Tonight Against Blue Jackets

Pre-season is often not considered to be "important." The games don't count against the standings, but they do count for the prospects looking to crack the roster. The coaching staff will be paying close attention to what they do tonight. They're no longer playing against their teammates in a scrimmage, or in a drill - those kind of things give a coaching staff a good look at basic abilities, but not how the players will react when they're in an NHL arena, on NHL ice, playing against another team in an NHL game. Yes, the opposition's made up of just as many scared rookies, but they have the same goals - make the team. Preseason tilts are often played a lot harder than expected - the kids need to make impressions, and the vets need to show the coaching staff where they belong on the team.

Tonight's roster will look like this:

Evander Kane- Alex Burmistrov- Anthony Stewart
Nigel Dawes- Bryan Little- Fredrik Pettersson
Danick Paquette- Riley Holzapfel- Akim Aliu
Ben Eager- Patrick Rissmiller- Spencer Machacek

Ron Hainsey-Jamie Sifers
Arturs Kulda- Freddy Meyer
Boris Valabik- Andrey Zubarev

Ondrej Pavelec
Drew MacIntyre

Bryan Little's been moved back to his natural position at center, which will take some adjustment for him. The line that he is centering is the smallest line out there tonight size wise, but also potentially the most lethal. The third line will be fast, pushy, and able to score. Burmistrov has a lot to show in his placement - with the loss of Cormier, he's a frontrunner for that open center position. He stepped it up in camp yesterday, and that needs to continue today. Pavelec and MacIntyre should switch out after the second period to give both goalies a chance to play.

Ron Hainsey is the only defenseman out tonight who is assured of a position on the team, and who doesn't have anything to prove. Everyone else's fighting for the 7th defenseman position. Only Boris Valabik's held that job long term on the Thrashers. It'll possibly come down to a fight between himself and Arturs Kulda for that position.

Columbus was kind enough to post a roster (without lines) for tonight's game. It will be mostly a rookie squad, as the big guns usually stay at home for road pre-season games. Goaltenders will be David LeNeveu and Mathieu Garon for the Blue Jackets. They'll probably switch out after two periods as well. Garon was 2-0 against the Thrashers last season with a 2.00 GAA and a .938SV%, so if Atlanta wants to win, they need to light the lamp in the first two periods. 

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