The holiday NHL break is over, and today marks the last day of a four day weekend for many people. Snow blanketed the metro Atlanta region on Christmas for the first time since Chester A. Arthur was in office. If the Thrashers win tonight, it'd be the first time that they've defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in nearly as long.
Obviously, I'm kidding, but it's been a while. The last eight games have all gone to Tampa Bay, mostly on the shoulders of Steven Stamkos (who already has 27 goals on the season) and Martin St. Louis. Tampa Bay has only played six games at home, so they've had to really work on winning on the road, and they've done so fairly well. They're 10-8-3 on the road, and while getting 23 out of 46 points puts them technically at .500. it's enough to help them to 40 points faster than any other time in franchise history. Also helpful is that they've excelled where others have stumbled, going 6-2-2 in their last ten games, while the Washington Capitals have been 2-5-3. Atlanta winds up somewhere between the two teams in their last ten, going 5-3-2 and losing two games in a row. The team hasn't lost three games in a row since November 13th-17th.
Yet again, it's hard to write a game day preview without mentioning Tampa's sub-par goaltending. Opponents have five more goals than Tampa Bay does total. Their goaltenders GAA is 3.15, and the save percentage is an awful .882. The goaltender that's defeated the Thrashers the most this season, Mike Smith, is still out with a knee injury. Dan Ellis'll be in net tonight. He's only played three times against the Thrashers, all with Nashville, which possibly might be more of the reason that he won two of those games than any superb goaltending skills.
Tonight's goalie matchup:
|2010 - Ondrej Pavelec
|2010 - Dan Ellis
Dustin Byfuglien already has set his career highs for points and assists, and is just six goals off of his career high. It's not even January yet.