I don’t like Paul Simon, and I don’t like his song Slip Sliding Away either. However that’s exactly what you can say about tonight’s matchup between the Florida Panthers and the Atlanta Thrashers. For both teams.
Once in the top eight and one of the surprises of the NHL this season, the Thrashers now find themselves five points out of a playoff spot and will be attempting to avoid their fifth loss in a row tonight. This game tonight starts a critical five game homestand for Atlanta where they hope to turn things around and get back into the top eight. Home hasn’t been to sweet for Atlanta as they have lost 11 of the past 15 games at the Phillips Arena.
Captain Andrew Ladd leads Atlanta in goals with 22 and has five points in his past four games. Defenceman Tobias Enstrom is now tied with Dustin Byfuglien in points with 45. Big Buff had cooled off for a bit, but has picked up the pace again after his defensive partner for much of the year Entsrom came back from injury. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has lost his past three games and has a 3.71 GAA during that time. Evander Kane however has also picked up his pace and has 8 points in his last 8 games giving him 35 on the season.
The Thrashers have a bit of a revamped roster as well as they have made some trades in the past couple weeks. Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart from Boston and Ben Maxwell have been acquired. Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik went to the Bruins while Brent Sopel and Nigel Dawes went to the Canadiens.
The Florida Panthers waltz into this game facing elimination from the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season. After two consecutive losses to teams that they should have beat, both by the score of 5-1, head coach Peter DeBoer had finally seen enough. Thursday’s practice was nothing but skating. No pucks needed. A good old bag skate as it’s called. From my memory and while I don’t claim to have all the info, this was DeBoer’s first session like this during the time he’s been here. Seems odd that the last time the Panthers skated hard in practice was the Uncle Jack era.
Not really sure what was accomplished by doing it at this point. I could probably point to at least 5 other times when such a tactic should have been used, but it doesn’t matter now. The players seem to be weary of all the trade talk and it has affected their game. Acknowledged by their coach, I think the players almost took that as a right to play with no energy and no desperation. We’ve seen this song and dance too many times before.
Is it coaching? Is it the players? Is it the pressure of not knowing where or if you’ll be traded? Are they really tired of all the losing and just don’t have anything left to give at this point? No answers, other than it’s a combination of all this most likely. But we can’t make excuses. A couple weeks ago the playoffs were technically in reach. There was a time that five points separated the Panthers from a playoff spot. Even though they are only seven out, other teams are playing better and either passing them up or about to pass them up. Don’t look in the rear view mirror boys but, the Devils and Islanders are within striking distance and Toronto has passed us up.
Crash is out with a ankle injury and no timetable has been set on his return. Steve Bernier has been placed on waivers and not surprisingly cleared. he’ll be in the lineup tonight. Michal Repik, Bill Thomas and Joe Callahan ave been called up from Rochester while Keaton Ellerby has been sent back. don’t look here for an explanation on the Ellerby demotion. I haven’t found one yet.
The Panthers have lost 13 of 17. Not a stretch to be on when you’re trying to make the post season. While the special teams have improved somewhat, the five on five play has been abysmal at best in the past two games. Although going o for 5 on the power play against Ottawa didn’t help, which included on 5 of 3 advantage.
How many must win games can you possibly have and still keep your hopes alive. Honestly, I think the Cats have used up all of their nine lives.
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