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Atlanta dropped their last pre-season game of the season, losing 4-3 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Two third-period goals did the Thrashers in, and the offense - which hasn't been the same line-up any of the pre-season games - failed to gel. Two out of the three goals came from defenseman - Freddy Meyer scored at 2:50 of the first period to start the scoring, assisted by a pass from Tobias Enstrom. Enstrom, aided by Bryan Little and Chris Thorburn, scored on his own with under two minutes left in the first period. Finally, in the third period, Nigel Dawes hit in his own rebound after getting a pass from Alex Burmistrov that was also assisted by Enstrom. It wouldn't be enough, with Columbus' returning sniper Nikita Filatov scoring the game winning goal on the power play with just under five minutes remaining in the game.
Pre-season games luckily do not count for the regular season. Losing streaks such as this six game one that the Thrashers are on are exactly what cost this team in the playoffs, and it did so for the exact same reasons - offense that couldn't take advantage of the chances afforded to them by decent defensive play and goaltending. The regular season doesn't start until next Friday, October 8th, so the team has some time to work out whatever's going on.
Also, cuts will continue to be made, and the final roster for opening night will be set shortly. Scratches and line-juggling makes it difficult for goals to be scored. Thrashers fans can take heart in the improved defense of the team as well as the slowly but steadily improving breakout, but can easily be forgiven if they're concerned about the offense, especially as the Thrashers start the season against the Washington Capitals.
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%.
Ladd- Little- Thorburn
Kane- Peverley- Bergfors
Modin- Burmistrov- Dawes
Boulton- Rissmiller- Stewart
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.
80 Antropov, Nik
18 Bergfors, Niclas
49 Burmistrov, Alex
15 Dawes, Nigel
21 Eager, Ben
9 Kane, Evander
16 Ladd, Andrew
10 Little, Bryan
19 Modin, Fredrik
56 Pettersson, Fredrik
47 Peverley, Rich
22 Stewart, Anthony
27 Thorburn, Chris
4 Bogosian, Zach
39 Enstrom, Tobias
44 Kulda, Arturs
24 Meyer, Freddy
29 Oduya, Johnny
3 Sopel, Brent
51 Zubarev, Andrey
50 Mason, Chris
31 Pavelec, Ondrej
Two players will be scratched at gametime (one defenseman and one forward). Notably Boris Valabik is sitting out another game tonight, and Ron Hainsey’s taking a night off. Hainsey’s performance this pre-season has been shaky to say the best. The defenseman was a -2 Wednesday night in the loss, with the first goal coming courtesy of his patented goalie screen.
Pavelec is hoping to continue his strong play from Monday’s game – the goalies have given the team more than enough chances to stay in the games they’ve lost; it’s time for the offense to step up and do their part.
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.
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.
Unfortunately, since it wasn’t televised I can’t tell you exactly what happened, other than Ben Eager scored the Thrashers’ only goal, and Ron Hainsey was on the ice for our first goal against – again.
Timmyf and The Falconer of BWA were at the game, though, so I’ll direct your attention to the liveblog archive for right now. Check back with them tomorrow for a game summary and photos from the pressbox.
The Thrashers have cut four more from their training camp roster: forwards Riley Holzapfel and Spencer Machacek and defenseman Noah Welch were sent to the Wolves, and Patrice Cormier was placed on injured reserve.
Tonight the Thrashers will be going to Nashville to take on the Predators. No TV or radio coverage, but the game starts at 8 EST. Ben Wright has the line-up for tonight, which sees Chris Mason get his second start in a row.
I’ll direct attention to the Birdwatchers re-cap when completed, seeing as how Matt & Tim will be venturing to Nashville to catch the game
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.
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.
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
3 Brent Sopel
4 Zach Bogosian
5 Boris Valabik
26 Noah Welch
29 Johnny Oduya
33 Dustin Byfuglien
39 Tobias Enstrom
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.
Per a tweet from Ben Wright, Ladd, Modin, and Sopel will be making their debuts tomorrow evening. Line pairings have not been released yet, but when they are they will be posted.
Not as wild about Pettersson with Eager and Burmistrov as I was about him with Little, but the first line's excellent, and the Boulton-Machacek-Aliu and Ladd-Antro-Thorburn lines are not one to be trifled with. Honestly, the BAM line (see what I did there?) is one that I wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley, let alone on the ice.
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.
Ben Chiarot (Sudbury Wolves, OHL)
Sebastian Owuya (Medicine Hat Tigers, WHL)
Cody Sol (Saginaw Spirit, OHL)
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
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.
I missed today’s shortened scrimmage, but according to Ben Wright, the goals were there.
Tomorrow’s camp will only have the players NOT participating in tomorrow night’s pre-season game. Also, no cuts have been announced as of yet, but expect a few after the game against the Blue Jackets tomorrow night.
Kane- Burmistrov- Stewart
Dawes- Little- Pettersson
Paquette- Holzapfel- Aliu
Eager- Rissmiller- Machacek
Check back tomorrow for the storystream of the Thrash’s first pre-season game, with line-up analysis and hopefully some updates from Philips. The game is NOT televised nor is it on 680 the Fan, so you need to be there to enjoy the action.
I missed camp today thanks to an alarm clock that didn't go off and the fact that I live an hour away, so I don't have the usual observations to offer up. I should be there on Tuesday for the session for the guys who aren't playing in that evening's pre-season game, so I will have updates then (and a list of who not to expect on the ice that night). Luckily, YouTube user and Thrasher fan JBone225 uploaded a ton of video clips from today's practices.
As a preview, here's a very pretty goal from Ben Eager on Ondrej Pavelec:
Thrashers Training Camp 2010 - Ben Eager Goal (via jbone225)
Craig Ramsay has a "let the boys play" mentality, and that's exactly what visitors to the opening day of Thrashers' training camp were treated to: three "periods" of scrimmage hockey in two games worth. It gave the fans in attendance a good look at how the young rookies meshed with the older vets, and while it hasn't given any clues yet who won't be with the team after the first pre-season game, it did give a look into who skated like they belonged with the big boys.
Patrice Cormier did not participate due to his broken foot, so the prospect who many consider the second most likely to make the team, Alexander Burmistrov, was the focus of attention. Burmistrov wasn't as noticeably fast as he was during prospect and rookie camps, but that might have to do with the competition's level of experience. He was on a line with Evander Kane, and while the two were closely matched in speed, Kane had more of an awareness of the puck than Burmistrov, not allowing the sloppy give-aways that the Russian did. Kane looks like he's put on weight from the last time I saw him at the draft party to now.
Burmistrov wasn't the speediest playmaking forward on the ice. Angelo Esposito looks like he is recovering from ACL surgery quite nicely, and set up several plays that were prime goal scoring chances. The forward that might get a second look since Cormier's injury is Swedish forward Fredrik Pettersson. At 5'10", he is not of the big stature that a checking forward should be, but he makes up for that with tenacity and a speed that no third-liner should have. He will work his way up to the second line over time, for sure. He was on a line with Ben Eager and Andre Deveaux, and Eager benefited from the rookie's speed, scoring on goaltender Chris Mason with an assist from Pettersson. One could easily tell how he scored twenty goals with the Frolunda Indians last season, and I wouldn't be flabbergasted to see him get played a lot in these six upcoming pre-season games.
Goaltending was good, though Chris Mason allowed his perfunctory soft goal during the first scrimmage session. The other two goals scored on him came up close with activity in front of the net, and they were both scored by former Blackhawks Eager and Andrew Ladd - no doubt remembering some of Mason's shortcomings from their Central Division battles. Pavelec wasn't tested as much as Mason was as far as shots went, but he looked fine as well.
Defensively we were treated to pairings that could be very much indicative of the lines for this season. Boris Valabik skated with Brent Sopel. Valabik looks fully recovered from his surgery and played well. Ron Hainsey was paired with Dustin Byfuglien, who crashed the net regardless of being on defense. Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian were paired back up together, which was great to see. They were one of the strongest pairings of last season, but were inexplicably broken up by former coach John Anderson. Bogosian has put on ten pounds since the end of last season, tipping the scales at 215 or so (according to Ben Wright in a conversation at camp today). Bogosian also was playing with a bit of a mean streak today, leveling Evander Kane with a check into the boards and taking out camp invitee Enver Lisin with a hard body check. Lisin apparently was today's punching bag, leaving the ice with a wrist injury and not returning.
Ben Wright has summaries of the scrimmages up on the Blueland Blog that are probably more through than mine, seeing as how I got there late this morning. I'll try to get to camp at least for the scrimmages tomorrow to see what more I can add to what's going on for those who can't attend.
Via Chris Vivlamore of the AJC, the Thrashers have released the training camp roster for this season (camp starts Saturday the 18th - schedule can be found on the Thrashers' official website). If you're trying to figure out who'll be out there on the ice when you head down, here's the list:
Forwards: Akim Aliu, Nik Antropov, Niclas Bergfors, Eric Boulton, Alexander Burmistrov, Patrice Cormier, Nigel Dawes, Andre Deveaux (from CHI Wolves), Ben Eager, Angelo Esposito, Michael Forney, Riley Holzapfel, Evander Kane, Andrew Kozek, Andrew Ladd, Enver Lisin (pro tryout), Bryan Little, Spencer Machacek, Ian McKenzie, Fredrik Modin, Danick Paquette, Fredrik Pettersson, Rich Peverley, Patrick Rissmiller, Jared Ross, Jim Slater, Anthony Stewart, Chris Thorburn
Defensemen: Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Chairot, Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey, Arturs Kulda, Kyle McLaren (pro tryout), Freddy Meyer, Johnny Oduya, Sebastian Owuya, Paul Postma, Jaime Sifers, Mike Siklenka, Cody Sol, Brent Sopel, Boris Valabik, Noah Welch, Andrey Zubarev
As you can see, there are quite a few locker stalls that need to be set up this evening. Obviously, not everyone will make the cut. I'll be updating this thread off and on throughout training camp (I should be able to attend tomorrow) with observations, thoughts, and as people get cut, an abbreviated list of players.
Thrashers hockey is just around the corner -- come out to the Ice Forum to the public sessions and get a taste of what's up the pipeline for the team.
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