Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thrashers/Capitals Preview

Washington Capitals at Atlanta Thrashers
Wednesday, February 13th, 2008, 7:00 PM
Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia
Last Meeting: 2/2/2008, Caps lose 2-0

About the Opponent

Atlanta Thrashers: 27-27-4, 58 points, 3rd in the Southeast Division, 11th in the Eastern Conference

Team Leaders
Goals: Ilya Kovalchuk (39)
Assists: Tobias Enstrom (29)
Points: Ilya Kovalchuk (65)
Plus/Minus: Niclas Havelid (+7)
Penalty Minutes: Chris Thorburn (83)
Fights: Chris Thorburn (9)

Random Thrashers Fact
In addition to flubbing the eight overall pick in the 2003 draft (where he selected Braydon Coburn over Dion Phaneuf), Don Waddell dropped the ball in 1999 when he had the first overall pick and selected Patrick Stefan. The second and third overall picks: Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin.

Random Thrashers Statistics
(1) As of January 24th the Thrashers had six players on their roster that were originally drafted by Atlanta, tied for 23rd in the league. I currently count four: Ilya Kovalchuk, Kari Lehtonen, Tobias Enstrom and Garnet Excelby.

(2) Last season, in an effort to make the playoffs and save his own job, Don Waddell traded Braydon Coburn to the Flyers for Alexei Zhitnik. This season Coburn has 24 points (4+20) in 54 games and is leading the Flyers with a +11 rating, while Zhitnik has 6 points (2+4) in 57 games with a -8 rating and has been a healthy scratch.

Keys to the Game

Avoid mistakes. As the better team, the Capitals should control this game; this only way the Thrashers will be in it is if they can capitalize on mistakes by Capitals players that lead to soft goals, odd man rushes or penalties and hence give the Thrashers a chance to get in the game.

Play for yourself. Maybe it seems like weird advice, but given that Waddell traded away a readily improving player to a much more effectively run organization last year. If Thrashers players can use the possibility of a ticket out of Atlanta to motivate themselves, they should play very well.

Players to Watch

Boyd Gordon - after Eric Fehr didn't do a whole lot with his time on the top line Gordon was moved back up to the second line, centering Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin. Can Gordon make the most of a second chance in an offensive role?

Tobi[as] Enstrom - the rookie blue liner has been perhaps th lone pleasant surprise for Atlanta hockey fans this season, leading the team in assists and accounting for half of all goals scored by the Thrashers defense, and without him the Thrashers might already be out of the playoff race. On the down side, Enstrom is listed at 5'9'', 169, but looks to be about 5'7'', 150, which is a serious lack of size for a defenseman.

Kari Lehtonen - after stopping all 36 shots he saw in his last game against the Capitals, how could Lehtonen not be a player to watch?

No comments: