Well, wow. Look at this - the Thrashers sit just two point behind the Washington Capitals with a game in hand. A Thrashers win and a Capitals loss to the Anaheim Ducks would put the Thrashers in first place in the division for the first time this season. The Capitals have lost six games in a row and are mired in a frustrating slump.
Who do the Thrashers have to beat to complete this feat? The Tampa Bay Lightning, who are winners of seven straight against the Thrashers. The two teams have already met twice this season, with Tampa winning both match ups 5-3 and 5-2. The Thrashers have a tough time with the Bolts' high scoring offense and their Hull and Oates-esque combo of Stamkos and St. Louis. They can't manage to defend against Stamkos' booming shot from the right face-off circles, and they almost refuse to break up passes between St. Louis and Stamkos. Stamkos has scored half of the Lightning's ten goals against the Thrashers this year, joining Evgeny Malkin, Alexander Semin and Sidney Crosby as superstars that have the Thrashers' number.
St. Louis has three assists against the Thrashers in two games this year, but in the last four games he has two goals and five assists. He's got a reputation as a Thrasher-killer, and it's well-earned.
Ondrej Pavelec will be starting tonight, and Mike Smith will start for Tampa Bay. Smith has defeated the Thrashers twice this season, but his stats are absolutely atrocious:
|2010 - Mike Smith||15||774||8||5||46||3.57||360||314||.872||0|
Pavelec is still hot, and is still second in the league in save percentage and third in goals against average (Jonathan Quick's shutout of the Red Wings a few nights ago bumped him ahead of Pavs):
|2010 - Ondrej Pavelec||20||1101||10||6||34||1.85||586||552||.942||2|
The Lightning are getting by fine without captain Vincent Lecavalier. The Thrashers have scored only four more goals than the Bolts have all season. The problem with the Lightning is their goaltending. Rolling two starting-ish goaltenders added to their offense have let them string together a decent number of wins. Their goaltenders' combined GAA, though, is 3.43. Save percentage? .872. No wonder rumors are flying that they're thinking of signing goalie Evgeny Nabakov, who is recently returned from the KHL for family reasons.
No word on if either Niclas Bergfors or Ben Eager, both scratches for the last two games, will be in the line-up tonight.