18 September 2007

Talking Thrash

As the Thrashers cruise through pre-season, they're 2-0. Newcomer Eric Perrin led the charge against the Blues on Sunday night, scoring 2 goals to put the Thrash up 3-1 over the boys in blue. The newest sensation in goal, Ondrej Pavelec, made 24 saves while playing all 60 minutes.

Last night, Garnet Exelby was the most unlikely of heroes, as he put in the winning goal in OT to put the Thrash over the Isles, 4-3. Johan Hedberg was in net this time, putting up 29 stops. Judging by rotations Hartley's been using, we should see Freddie Brathwaite in net on Thursday in Nashville, and Kari Lehtonen backstopping for the first home game of the season, against the Blues.

Hartley still is yet to determine who the 4 players will be to make the squad coming out of camp. What this team needs desperately is a solid and dependable blueline - one that won't leave its young phenom goaltender out to dry the way they did in the playoffs last season. Lehtonen will be able to come back and rebuild his confidence, but only if he's got a strong and capable defence in front of him. The Thrash have Ken Klee, Exelby, and Niclas Havelid for experience and possible dependability. On the blueline, Klee is really the only known factor. Off-season signing Joel Kwiatkowski, while providing experience, also comes in with a question mark next to his name. He's streaky, and this team needs reliability. Other notable defencemen in camp are Alexei Zhitnik and Steve McCarthy. Youngsters Boris Valabik and Mark Popovic are looking to crack the lineup this season, rather than head back to Chicago to patrol the Wolves' blueline. If I were the coach, I would take one kid for the 3rd pairing and send the other north. To make the playoffs again, and get beyond the first round, the Thrashers need a solid blueline, and can't afford to spend time and games developing players.

This season's player to watch is Eric Perrin. All the talk for the Thrashers has been centred around Todd White, but look for Perrin to be the dark horse. His experience and hockey sense provided Tampa with key playmaking and goal scoring. Previously he led the Hershey Bears deep into the playoffs, and was not only the team MVP several times, but also voted Man of the Year for his off-ice work with charities. This is a key signing for the Thrashers, and one to make note of. Don't be surprised to see Perrin put up 20 goals this year.

On Monday, NHL commish Gary Bettman held a press conference to announce the January 1 outdoor game between the Pens and the Sabres, to be held at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium - home of the NFL's Bills. This is the first NHL game to be played outdoors in the US, and will likely surpass attendance at 2003's Heritage Classic between the Oilers and Canadiens. Held at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium in November of '03, 57,167 people witnessed history (and nearly froze to death). Ralph Wilson Stadium has a capacity of over 73,000. This is slated to be the largest outdoor game in the history of the league. Tickets are on sale today.

Did you get your tickets? We did! See you there!

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