Panther Game Day: Cats vs. Thrashers



Two teams that are going in different directions square off tonight in a Southeast Division matchup featuring the Florida Panthers and the Atlanta Thrashers.  Atlanta is going for their fourth win in a row which includes shutouts in two of three games, while the Panthers hope to put the brakes on a four game losing streak after having turned around their horrible start.

Atlanta has been using a pretty successful goalie tandem with Ondrej Pavalec and Johan Hedberg handling things as Atlanta has given up 65 goals so far this season, good enough for fifth best in the East.  The Thrashers are coming off a 1-0 shutout against the Flyers on Saturday night where they snapped a 14 game losing streak, the longest of any current team in the NHL.

Waiver wire pickup from last season Rich Peverley leads the Thrashers in scoring with 26 points and has been pretty hot of late with 15 points in his last 14 games.  Peverley has ten goals this season and is on pace for 35, and I believe that he’ll get them.  He’s hard working, takes his shots and has the desire to score goals.  Why can’t the Panthers ever find a guy like this?

Ilya Kovalchuk who always plays well against the Panthers comes into the game with 24 points for the Thrashers on 14 goals and 10 assists.  Due to an early season injury he has only played 17 games and has 14 points in his last nine games.  Maxim Afinogenov a player that I would much rather have taken a chance on then St. Dominic, has played well for Atlanta after a bit of a slow start.  He too has 24 points on 10 goals and 14 assists and has 12 points ion his last nine games.  Think that the Panthers could have taken a chance on a creative fast winger like this, who is probably getting his last chance to stay in the NHL?  Randy Sexton, are you reading this?

Speaking of lack of scoring, has anyone seen Rhino lately?  He has cooled off quite a bit since the injury to linemate Cory Stillman who is out indefintely with a knee injury and hasn’t meshed with any new linemates since.  

 While  The Little Weasel does have 17 points so far this season (someone thinks that’s good), he seems to disappear in important games at times, and to me is beginning to look sluggish….Even more so than usual.  His lack of size and being forced to be the number one center has caught up to him and it’s going to have a negative effect long term on this team if they cannot find or deal for a true number one center.

The game will feature two top draft picks for each team.  For Atlanta, forward Evander Kane who was the fourth overall pick in this years draft, and for Florida, Dmitry Kulikov the number 14 pick in this years draft.  Kulikov is one game removed from a two goal performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs and has played slightly better as of late.

Another young player that Atlanta has is defenceman Zach Bogosian.  He’s averaging over 23 minutes of ice time and has 57 hits, and has eight goals.  Not too shabby for a second year defenceman.

If Big Mac dresses, he’ll probably square off against Eric Boulton of the Thrashers.  At this point, who cares.  I want to win games.  Toughness needs to come from somewhere else.  No offence to Big Mac, but we need wins and don’t really have room on an already depleted roster.

Atlanta has a 13-7-3 reocrd coming into this game.  They have been perenially bad almost their entire existence.  They did make the playoffs a couple years ago only to get swept out in the first round.

However, they have drafted well, caught some players off of waivers, and signed some players that maybe other teams were scared of (Panthers), and have a good coach in John Anderson, a guy who has stuck to his system and the players have bought into it.  Especially Afinogenov and Peverley.

Can’t predict which Panther team shows up tonight and what the outcome is going to be.  It’s a must win game however, as it’s a four point swing if they lose!  Remeber boys, DESIRE!

(For my daughter.  She’s hoping for a win)

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Thanks for reading.