Thrashers prospect Patrice Cormier looks to put ugly past behind him

atlanta_thrashers_2000.gifTo call Thrashers prospect Patrice Cormier’s last year turbulent would be being nice. The former Devils prospect spent the better part of the last year looking to get past being labeled as a reckless and careless player after a vicious elbow he laid on Mikael Tam during a QMJHL game last season, one that saw him get suspended indefinitely by the league as well as brought up on criminal assault charges.

After being shipped off to Atlanta in the Ilya Kovalchuk deal, Cormier is looking to redeem his image and his career with the Thrashers and so far in rookie camp it appears he’s done just that and is gunning for a spot on the roster with the Thrashers this year as Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution finds out.

General manager Rick Dudley called Cormier “one of the most mature kids I’ve seen at his age, physically and mentally.” Team officials went so far as to say that once Cormier was included in trade talks for Ilya Kovalchuk, the deal was promptly struck with New Jersey. The Thrashers sent their franchise player to the Devils for Niclas Bergors, Johnny Oduya, Cormier and a first-round draft pick in February.

“He was as big as any part of that trade,” Dudley said.

Such homage would seemingly place plenty of weight on the 20-year-old center. Following rookie camp, which ends Thursday, Cormier will take part in the Thrashers’ training camp, where he will essentially be trying to jump straight from junior hockey to the NHL.

“I don’t think there is a lot of pressure on me,” Cormier said. “Maybe there is, but I don’t put any pressure on my shoulders. I don’t worry about that. I can’t control what the organization is going to do with me this year. I just control what I can do. That’s work hard on the ice, help my teammates, be a good leader.”

Cormier was a second-round pick of the Devils in 2008 and he’s a player that Devils GM Lou Lamoriello liked quite a bit. Seeing Cormier grow up the way he apparently has and harness his game for good could help make the Kovalchuk trade look even more helpful to Atlanta.

Having Cormier become a major contributor to the Thrashers potential success along with Niclas Bergfors would be just the boost the franchise and GM Rick Dudley could use. The Thrashers struggles since joining the league are certainly not a secret but if Cormier’s reclamation can spur the Thrashers to rise from obscurity and help fans forget former GM Don Waddell’s shortcomings, it’ll turn Atlanta into a reclamation story of their own.

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    The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

    Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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    It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

    But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

    “There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

    Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

    Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

    Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

    In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

    Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


    After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

    Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

    Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

    Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

    While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

    Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

    McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

    Todd McLellan

    Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

    Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

    In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

    Some of the more choice quotes:

    “I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

    “When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

    It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

    Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

    They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

    Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

    “We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

    Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


    The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

    After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


    You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

    “It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

    “We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

    There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

    His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

    Not good.

    Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

    Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.