New Year's Day was not the best day for the Atlanta Thrashers, and they didn't even play. The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New York Rangers in a shootout, and in some little backyard game of pond hockey you might've heard about, the Washington Capitals defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1. The Lightning and the Capitals are both tied for first place in the Southeast Division, five points ahead of the Thrashers. If Atlanta doesn't want to lose more ground in a race they were winning just a few weeks ago, they have to defeat the Montreal Canadiens in one of the toughest buildings in the NHL. The Thrashers already lost ground to the two teams ahead of them by losing 3-1 to the New Jersey Devils on New Years Eve. Only four points separate them and the Canadiens from the 8th and last place in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The Canadiens are 3-7-0 in their last ten games, while the Thrashers are 3-4-3 - the Thrashers have been fairing slightly slightly better, but the outstanding run from earlier in the season is over. December had sixteen games shoved into 31 days, leaving the Thrashers bruised and battered, January should be like a vacation to Club Med, with just eleven games in the same amount of time.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price has lost three games in a row, but has only lost twice (once in overtime) to the Thrashers at home. Ondrej Pavelec has been fairing better than his counterpart in Montreal, going 2-2-1 in his last five games. Pavs still has the six goals allowed against Pittsburgh pushing up his GAA, so he'll be looking for every chance to fix that problem.
|2010 - Carey Price
|2010 - Ondrej Pavelec
Speaking of fixing problems, the last time these two teams played each other on November 26th, Zach Bogosian attempted to fix an attitude problem in rookie P.K. Subban.
Subban's been observing from the press box off and on since then, and has been mostly a non-factor in those games. He hasn't scored a point since he netted a goal and an assist in the Habs' 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on December 15th, and he has had more than two hits in a game once in his past five games.
The Habs have four players with ten or more goals, and can be relied on for a fast and sudden outburst of firepower. Brian Gionta is someone the Thrashers need to keep an eye on, not only because the forward has 13 goals and 22 points on the season, but because he had four goals in four games against the Thrashers until the Thrashers' shutout of the Habs in November.