Coach Craig Ramsay had strong words for his team after Tuesday's loss, and strong repercussions as far as ice time is concerned. I detailed these in my feature regarding team accountability, though in an interview with the AJC's Chris Vivlamore Ramsay one-upped himself and said that the team is lacking mental commitment to play a full 82 game schedule. It's unfortunate that it took a loss to the Islanders to help the Thrashers realize this, because one would think that a red flag would have gone up at some other time during their awful stretch. They've gone 2-5-3 in their last ten, and despite all odds are still in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. What was once a now comfortable lead over the Carolina Hurricanes has all but been erased, and the team is still struggling to get some sort of momentum.
Ramsay changed the lines around today, partially in response to poor play from individuals over the last few games. By glancing at these lines, I'm sure that you can tell who he is trying to motivate:
The Cormier-Stapleton-Thorburn line saw increased ice time as the game progressed on Tuesday, as they were the only line consistently doing what they needed to do - defend and maintain control of the puck. You almost can't leave Peverley out of the lineup as he has 13 goals, but he's a -16 on the year, meaning that he's been on the ice for more goals than he's scored. For someone who is tied for second on the team in scoring, this is an issue.
Eric Boulton sits for the second straight game to, in Ramsay's words, give players a chance to respond to being challenged. Unfortunately, Calgary is a very large and very physical team. Without Boulton, the Thrashers are not, and could be intimidated into coughing up the puck. As Keith Jones was mentioning on Versus the other night, there's minimal physical challenge from the Thrashers when one of their players is hit and goes down. If Tom Kostopolos is in the line up and knocks one of our players for a loop (or, as he did to the Red Wings' Brad Stuart, breaks their jaw), not only will this team hesitate to respond, they'll play soft for the remainder of the game.
The Flames are 7-1-2 in their past ten games, and are a legitimate force climbing their way up a very tight Western Conference race. They and the Thrashers are very well-matched record wise and statistics wise, but one team has a decidedly different mindset than the other. The only way that you can break a cycle of losing is by looking in the mirror, and the Thrashers need to do that. Missing Jim Slater and Tobias Enstrom has hurt immensely, but the opposition doesn't care who the Thrashers have out - they shouldn't either.