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)



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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    Hellebuyck debuts with victory as Jets best Wild

    Connor Hellebuyck
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and assist, Connor Hellebuyck made 14 saves to win his NHL debut and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled left winger Zach Parise‘s return from a knee injury by beating the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Friday.

    Mathieu Perreault added his second goal in two games and Nikolaj Ehlers‘ goal late in the third put the game away.

    The Jets won on the road for the first time in their last seven tries and for just the third time in their last 11 games.

    Ryan Carter scored for Minnesota, finally getting a shot past Hellebuyck that made it 2-1 midway through the third period.

    Hellebuyck was college hockey’s top goalie in 2013-14 and the goaltender on the U.S. team that won a bronze medal in the 2015 world championships.

    Minnesota finished with a season-low 15 shots, which was also a season low in shots allowed for the Jets.

    Wild fans at the Xcel Energy Center let out a roar when it was announced before the game that Parise would start, but not even his return could spark Minnesota.

    After Jason Zucker was whistled for an elbowing penalty behind the net, Perreault took a pass from Byfuglien and zipped it past Devan Dubnyk to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead with 3:34 left in the second period.

    Byfuglien made it 2-0 early in the third when his odd-angle shot hit Dubnyk in the back of the skate and went in for his seventh goal.

    Carter’s goal bounced off of Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart and past Hellebuyck to give Minnesota some momentum.

    The rookie didn’t get rattled, however, stopping a big shot from Jason Pominville with 3:11 to play.

    Just 11 seconds later, Ehlers got loose on a breakaway and put the game away.

    Winnipeg’s defense came into the game ranked 29th in goals allowed, but had little problem preventing Minnesota from generating quality scoring chances.

    The Wild have just one win in their last six games. Parise was Minnesota’s leading scorer when he sprained a knee ligament on Nov. 5.

    NOTES: Wild F Justin Fontaine missed his 11th game with a sprained MCL, but has a chance to return for Saturday’s game against Dallas according to coach Mike Yeo. … The Wild went 4-3-1 without Parise. … Jets RW Blake Wheeler had an assist and now has points in 18 of 24 games.

    Blackhawks baffle Ducks with late magic; Kane’s streak at 18 games


    The Chicago Blackhawks may not be at peak-level right now, but they’re still a tough team to finish off.

    For most of Friday’s game, it seemed like the story would be about John Gibson possibly elbowing into the Anaheim Ducks’ No. 1 role, continuing that franchise carousel.

    Instead, it was about yet another tremendous comeback for Chicago, as the Blackhawks scored two goals in the final two minutes of the third period to erase a 2-0 deficit. Artem Anisimov than scored the OT GWG.

    Stunning stuff … though definitely not unprecedented.

    With less than 30 seconds remaining, Patrick Kane grabbed an assist on Duncan Keith‘s 2-2 goal. Kane extended his point streak to 18 games, tying a record for America-born players.

    For the Ducks, it’s yet another gut punch, one that makes you wonder how they’d fare in another playoff series against Chicago (if they can even get there … a big if).

    Bruce Boudreau is bummed:

    Tyler Johnson’s injury: One of several ominous signs for Tampa Bay

    Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Johnson
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    The gloom only seems to lift from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s cloudy season in small drizzles.

    Sure, they’re on a three-game winning streak, but the Washington Capitals seem to be on the verge of ending that with a thud (they’re currently up 3-0 going into the third period).

    Update: Washington managed a 4-2 win, giving the Capitals a four-game winning streak.

    That’s the least of the Bolts’ concerns right now, really, as Tyler Johnson left Friday’s game seemingly injured.

    The word seemingly comes into play because details are scarce, as reporters note.

    /ominous music plays

    If you look at Tampa Bay’s upcoming schedule, things could get downright stormy.

    They face the Islanders at home, but they do so tomorrow so they won’t be well-rested. It gets worse from there.

    Dec. 2 – 6: Three-game road trip against the California teams

    Dec. 10 – 12: Two home games (one vs. Ottawa, one vs. Washington)

    Dec. 14-18: Another three-game road trip

    Long story short, they close up a back-to-back set at home tomorrow and then play six of eight on the road.

    /even more ominous music

    The end of 2015 looks friendlier, but for a team that seems to be cratering here and there … things look a bit morbid.

    We’ll see if they can keep fighting, perhaps with a comeback tonight?

    The ghost is here: Another OT-winner from Flyers’ Gostisbehere

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    Here’s an easy way to remember how to spell Shayne Gostisbehere’s maddening last name (and even his first name can trip you up).

    Ghost-is-be-here, without the h.

    Not too bad, right?

    If you’re more of the slogan type, it’s getting to be the point where “Tough to spell, tougher to stop” may be a pretty good one-liner.

    The Philadelphia Flyers phenom has made a habit of scoring overtime game-winning goals on the power play lately. Friday’s version was the decisive tally in a 3-2 OT win against the Nashville Predators, which you can watch up top.

    As you can see in comparing that goal with the one below (which made the difference against the Carolina Hurricanes), opposing coaches may want to make it a point to emphasize stopping this setup, even if it means writing “Don’t let that Ghost kid free.”

    All three of his goals are on the power play so far.

    Will he breathe life back into the Flyers’ man advantage at this rate?