13 November 2007

Perrin love! Game Day Preview! Goaltender controversy!

And damn it, we're Perrin Central, too! Who was it talking sugar about Perrin for the past, uh, two months? Oh wait, that's right! Us! C'mon now - hop on the bandwagon. We've got plenty of room here.

Thrashers' Perrin picks up speed
Versatile addition has scored 10 points in past nine games

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/13/07

Back when Don Waddell was just the Thrashers' general manager, he had more time to scout games. If a team he wanted to see was playing in Tampa Bay, he often made the trip.

By his estimation, he saw the Lightning play at least 10 times last season.

And one thing he noticed, when games got tight, was that forward Eric Perrin was on the ice. If the Lightning were protecting a late lead, Perrin was out there. If the Lightning were trying to keep a team from scoring in the final minute of the period, Perrin was out there. If Tampa was killing a big penalty, well, you get it.

So, Waddell signed him.

It wasn't the sexiest free-agent signing of the summer. Picking up a player who scored 13 goals and had 23 assists won't light up the season ticket hotline. But Perrin got a big vote of confidence from former coach Bob Hartley, who worked with Perrin during offseason hockey camps. And Waddell loved his versatility.

"He can play any forward spot, kill penalties, play on your power play. He's been a very, very good player for us," Waddell said. "We knew we had [injured center Steve] Rucchin hanging over our head as a centerman, we didn't know Bryan Little was going to be ready to take as much ice time as he has ... and if everything worked out at center, we could put him on the wing."

And the wing is where Perrin has been doing the most damage lately. Look down the Thrashers' points leaders and there are only two players (Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov) who have scored more than Perrin's 11 points. He's on pace to finish with a career-high 19 goals.

Most of the scoring has come during the Thrashers' recent turnaround. Like many of the newcomers, Perrin got off to a slow start, but in his past nine games he has 10 points.

"It's funny, when the team starts winning, everybody starts to loosen up," Perrin said. "Everybody gains that little bit of confidence and feels more comfortable with the puck. ... Individually, that's how I feel. I feel a lot better out there. It's just good chemistry."

Perrin was bit of a late bloomer in the world of the NHL. After four standout seasons at the University of Vermont in the mid-'90s, Perrin played his way up through the IHL and in Switzerland and Finland.

It wasn't until last year, at the age of 30, that he played a full season in the NHL.

Playing in Tampa, he not only caught the eye of the Thrashers' GM, he also left an impression with his new teammates.

"I remember him. It was tough; he doesn't give you too much room," Marian Hossa said. "He's always in good position. It wasn't easy to play against him."

Added current linemate Kozlov: "He's not big, but he's tricky with the puck. ... He has a good second effort, he plays hard every shift and he's a warrior."

A great example of that came Saturday, when Perrin was helping kill a Carolina power play. He hustled down the ice, dug a puck out of the corner and fed Hossa for a short-handed goal.

It was noted Monday that Perrin has assisted on all three of the Thrashers' short-handed goals this season.

"I like to create opportunities on the penalty kill, but also the first thing on my mind is to take care of the job in our zone first," Perrin said. "But when I see there's an opportunity, I think it's great to put a little pressure on the other team and make them nervous."

And for that, the Thrashers' coach can thank the GM for some deft scouting.

Game day preview.

Go here, change Pavelec to Hedberg, change our point spread to 3, et voila. Game Day Preview.

Since we are indeed KariCentral™ (and proud!), we'd be remiss to not post this, from The Hockey Desk:
Will Kari Lehtonen ever remain injury-free?

The Thrashers have to be disappointed in Lehtonen, who was viewed as a potential franchise goalie when picked No. 2 overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. He's only 23, and there's still plenty of time to maximize his immense potential, but the bloom is now off the rose in Lehtonen's case. The more Atlanta turns to veteran Johan Hedberg and promising rookie Ondrej Pavelec, the less the team appears to need Lehtonen. At some point, GM/interim coach Don Waddell will have to make a decision in goal going forward.

Who's the next young netminder to emerge as a quality starter in the NHL?

It could very well be 20-year-old Pavelec, who has been a godsend for the Thrashers ever since Lehtonen went down. The Czech puck-stopper has not looked overwhelmed at the National Hockey League level so far, despite the fact he's in his first professional campaign. Clearly, Pavelec learned a lot during his tenure in the QMJHL with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.

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