December was a fine month for the Thrashers, but January is still seeing them try to recover from a hectic schedule. Evander Kane is back in the line up, but Freddy Modin (upper-body injury) and Jim Slater (concussion) are still out. Modin, as Tim from Birdwatchers Anonymous pointed out, has been the Thrashers' best even strength scorer. If the team isn't on the powerplay, without Modin, their chances for scoring are reduced. Also holding back scoring chances is the fact that Slater is, behind Niclas Bergfors, the owner of the best face off percentage on the team. Winning face-offs in your opponents zone sets up scoring chances for you, and without Slater that's a problem. Another problem without Slater is that you don't win as many shorthanded faceoffs in your own zone. Lose those, and your penalty kill's in trouble.
Oh, wait, is the Thrashers' penalty kill in trouble? Never noticed. After slipping to 29th in the league, the Thrashers decided to add insult to injury and allow three powerplay goals in Saturday's 6-1 drubbing against the Dallas Stars. The AJC's Chris Vivlamore points at the stumbles as a reason that the team's lost four in a row and has only won three of its last twelve games. It's a very viable reason. Not only are you allowing goals shorthanded, but any goal allowed is damaging to the team in general. Also damaging is the fact that the shots on goals allowed, both on and off the power play, has increased recently. With Pavelec not playing as well as he was before, for whatever reason, that leads to a higher probability of a goal - or six - going in. Coach Craig Ramsay has said in the past that the Thrashers have won games that they might not ought to have won thanks to goaltending, and it's caught up to the team.
Looking for some different fortunes, the Thrashers started Chris Mason Saturday night. His stay in the game was short lived, as while he was making a save he collided with Chris Thorburn and slid, legs akimbo, into the goalpost. Thanks to what is delicately being called a "lower body injury," (a sprained MCL) Mason is being placed on the IR and the Thrashers have recalled Peter Mannino from the Chicago Wolves. Pavelec, then, is starting tonight., facing off against Scott Clemmensen. The Thrashers chased Tomas Vokoun the last time they met, which was also the last game that the Thrashers won, back on January 5th. Clemmensen is 3-1-0 with a 2.18 GAA over the Panthers' four game hot streak.
Despite the scoring woes, both Andrew Ladd and Tobias Enstrom are riding six game point streaks going back to the January 2nd victory over Montreal. Enstrom has a goal and nine assists during that time, and Ladd has four goals and three assists. A notable scratch for tonight is Zach Bogosian. He'll be sitting in favor of Freddy Meyer. Bogosian is a -12 on the season and has been looking more than a little lost on-ice recently. Meyer will be skating with Ron Hainsey, and Brent Sopel will be skating with Johnny Oduya.