Atlanta Thrashers fans gladly pass on Kovalchuk 'drama'

ilyawnasathrasher.jpgAt the 18 day mark, we may just run out of thesaurus entries for the word “exhausting” when describing the Ilya Kovalchuk saga. Dare someone use the headline “Ilyawn” at this point? The give-and-take between the Russian winger and the Los Angeles Kings/New Jersey Devils has been drawn out beyond well-worn boundaries, not unlike the excessive buildup between two attractive co-eds in a typical sitcom. “Just get it over with, already,” we said a week ago. At least.

There’s at least one group of people who might only find this amusing: Atlanta Thrashers fans. One happens to write a column/blog for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and he expresses relief in not having to follow “As the Kovalchuk Turns” this time around.

So if there is to be a repeat of that holdout drama, then Kovy-Watch ’10 as only just begun.

About the only thing that seems to be certain regarding Ilya’s summer adventure this time is that he’s not going to get the same coin as the Thrashers offered up to him last winter. $10 million for 3 to 7 years or somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 mil for 12 years is now surely out of the question for Kovy.

So just where will Kovalchuk eventual wind up…and when will he wind up there? shrugs…I dunno. But all I can say is that I’m glad happy thrilledecstatic that Thrasherville is not the site of this particular saga.

In fact, I’m sorta looking forward this coming season in which the Thrashers aren’t having to deal with such distractions. You know, distractions such as whether or not superstars like Marian Hossa or Ilya Kovalchuk will re-sign…or if Kari Lehtonen’s back/groin/[insert issue here] will keep him out of the lineup for an extended period of time.

Quite frankly…Thrasherville can do without the drama.

(Not really sure why he employed the “strike-through” gimmick there, but to each his own, I guess.)

Rather than counting on mercurial talents, the Thrashers are shifting their focus to building a team that is about as subtle as a kick to the junk. It’s unclear if such a departure will actually result in an increase in victories, but at least Atlanta won’t be a glorified vacation for opposing teams any longer. A team once embodied by its departed Russian captain is already looking drastically different just six-or-so-months later.

We’ll see if Thrashers fans should like what they see starting in October.

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    Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

    Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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    Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

    Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

    “To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

    “When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

    According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

    The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

    Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

    The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

    St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

    Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

    Anders Lindback
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    Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

    The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

    Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

    Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

    Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

    Elsewhere…

    — No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

    Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

    — Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

    A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

    Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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    The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

    Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

    “Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

    “I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

    Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

    Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

    Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

    John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

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    As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

    The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

    Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

    When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

    Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’