Pondering possible line combos for next season's Atlanta Thrashers

thrasherscoachramsay.jpgFor hardcore hockey fans, drawing up various line combos is a delightful exercise of armchair coaching. The Atlanta Thrashers feature a boatload of new faces – many of whom played support roles with the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks – so that activity might be even more enjoyable for Thrashers writers, bloggers and fans.

Still, aside from adventures in NHL ’10 or NHL 2K10, the only place where the mixing and matching of lines matter is on the ice. Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constituion caught up with new coach Craig Ramsay, who might make it easier for people trying to guess what kind of lines the team will throw on the ice.

Ramsay: “The reality in my mind, if you are a really top-flight team, you have a high-end scoring line. Then you have a high-end checking and scoring line. Then you have another high-end line that can do a little of everything, perhaps score more than check. I look at things a bit differently. My one and three [lines], would be in my mind, offensively gifted lines. The second line is more of a grinding, puck control line, who I also expect to score. My fourth line would also be more of a puck control kind of line, that would be used in checking roles and to change the momentum of a game and would also be expected to score some goals.”

Rather than throw some darts at random Thrashers players on my wall, I thought it might be wiser to ask someone who follows the team closely. I asked Laura Astorian from Thrashing the Blues to share her guesses for what the team’s lines will look like in 2010-11 (you can also look at the Sept. 17 participants in this document). Here is what she said, keeping him mind I asked her out of the blue tonight.

With Little at wing and Pevs at center, it’d look like:

Little – Antropov – Bergfors

Kane – Peverley – Ladd

Dawes – Slater/Burmistrov – Modin

Boulton – Slater/Eager – Thorburn

If Cormier hadn’t been hurt, you could plug him in at 3rd line center for sure, but that broken foot during practice isn’t helping him. Slater also has a wrist injury right now, so he might not be good to go to start – I haven’t heard what the deal is yet. Also, this isn’t taking Fredrik Pettersson into consideration, and he’s looking good.

Defense should be this:

Enstrom-Bogosian (they’re paired together again, which is just awesome)

Hainsey-Byfuglien

Oduya-Sopel

The 7th guy’s up in the air. I’m betting Kulda goes down and is our first call-up in case of injury, and Boris Valabik stays at 7th.

Interesting stuff. I still wonder if the Thrashers’ glut of offensive defensemen may justify playing Byfuglien at forward, but Astorian is justified in putting “Buffy the Hamburger Slayer” on the blueline since the player, coach and GM are in favor of the move.

What kind of lines do you think Atlanta will throw out there on most nights? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments and take a look at their training camp battles, which can be found in the Southeast Division collection.

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    Flames keep showing life, Stars stumble once again

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    If you think the Dallas Stars are struggling because of defense more than anything else, then you’ll make sure to keep the video above “on file.”

    There Kari Lehtonen was, helpless on a 2-on-0 rush for the Calgary Flames, which Johnny Gaudreau finished with calm and ease. For some, that goal is the symbol of the Stars’ season.

    Either way, it was a painful goal in the Flames’ 2-1 win against the Stars. Calgary won despite Dallas firing 30 shots on goal versus the Flames’ 20.

    One team climbing, the other stumbling

    With that, the Flames are now on a four-game winning streak. Since falling to 5-10-1 on Nov. 12, the Flames have gone 9-3-1 in their last 13 games, pushing them to 14-13-2 overall. Gaudreau coming back is the icing on the cake after Chad Johnson really took charge of the Flames’ top job.

    During a similar span, the Stars can’t seem to get it together. Dallas stood at 6-6-3 after beating the Oilers 3-2 on Nov. 11. They’re now 10-11-6, essentially standing in place as a .500 team.

    Dallas can’t seem to get momentum going, a thought that might have left them envious of the team on the other end of the ice on Tuesday.

    Canadiens are facing some turbulence (and mostly passing the test)

    ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 6: Patrik Berglund #21 of the St. Louis Blues checks Tomas Plekanec #14 of the Montreal Canadiens at the Scottrade Center on December 6, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)
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    The Montreal Canadiens aren’t in crisis mode, but as far as this so-far outstanding 2016-17 season goes, they are finally facing some adversity.

    Alex Galchenyuk, one of their most promising young players, is out indefinitely. There are murmurs that captain Max Pacioretty isn’t getting along with head coach Michel Therrien.* Tuesday presented a body blow or two to boot.

    For one thing, the Canadiens gave up a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to the St. Louis Blues in overtime. Jaden Schwartz grabbed an assist and scored the game’s last two goals, including the OT-winner:

    Losing to a contender like the Blues, especially while still grabbing a “charity point,” isn’t that big of a deal. A possible David Desharnais injury makes things a little dicey, however:

    Really, though, it’s not all that bad for Montreal. They managed a 2-2-1 mark during a five-game road trip heavy on quality opponents.

    Also: six of their next seven games come at home, where they’re 12-1-1. So things will look brighter soon enough.

    Still, with some injuries and a big road trip to end 2016 and start 2017, there may be some moments where Montreal looks vulnerable.

    Ultimately, fighting through stretches like these could very well benefit the Habs later on.

    * – Ah, the old standby: “Player X isn’t seeing eye-to-eye with Therrien.”

    From the Blues’ side:

    Ristolainen, Kane, O’Reilly push Sabres past McDavid and the Oilers

    EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 16:  Rasmus Ristolainen #55, Matt Moulson #26, Sam Reinhart #23, Kyle Okposo #21 and Ryan OÕReilly #90 of the Buffalo Sabres celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers on October 16, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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    On Tuesday, it wasn’t just about Jack Eichel vs. Connor McDavid. Instead, it was a clash between a fleet of young scorers who were in their prime, with the Buffalo Sabres coming up on top against the Edmonton Oilers.

    In particular, high-scoring defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, power forward Evander Kane and two-way center Ryan O'Reilly made the difference in Buffalo’s 4-3 overtime win.

    Ristolainen’s first goal of 2016-17 was a big one, as it clinched the contest in OT:

    Evander Kane scored two goals of his own, including one in the dying seconds of regulation to allow Buffalo to get a standings point (and then a second) in the first place.

    Kane finished with two goals, O’Reilly generated two assists and Ristolainen managed a one-goal, two-assist performance.

    It would be wrong to say that the marquee names didn’t show up at all. McDavid generated two assists and Eichel also nabbed a helper.

    You’d be correct in saying that other young players stole the show, though, and the Sabres were the biggest beneficiaries.

    Video: Brent Seabrook shaken up after awkward fall

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    It wasn’t nearly as scary as the falls suffered by Travis Zajac or Philip Larsen, but the Chicago Blackhawks are still holding their breath when it comes to defenseman Brent Seabrook.

    As you can see from the video above, Seabrook was tripped up by Jordan Martinook of the Arizona Coyotes during a simple puck battle. Seabrook was shaken up after falling awkwardly on that play.

    At the moment, it’s unclear if this will be an ongoing issue or if the Blackhawks avoided a costly injury.

    Martinook was not penalized.

    CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers notes that Seabrook wasn’t out to begin the third period. So far, not so good.

    The Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-0, so the silver lining for Chicago is that they won.