Thrashers start the season without team captain, opt for three alternates

nikantropov2.jpgIt’s a rarity in the NHL but on occasion a team will sometimes go without a team captain. The Minnesota Wild went without a permanent one for years before choosing Mikko Koivu. The Montreal Canadiens last year went without a captain in the wake of former captain Saku Koivu leaving the team.

This year, the Atlanta Thrashers are the team going without a player wearing the captain’s “C” and will instead roll with three players as alternate captains as Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tells us.

Forwards Nik Antropov and Andrew Ladd and defenseman Johnny Oduya will begin the season wearing an ‘A’ on their sweater.

Coach Craig Ramsay said he will use other players in the role as the season progresses.

“We are definitely going to have other people take a crack at it,” Ramsay said. “We want to make sure, on this team, it’s team first and everyone has to be a leader. Beyond that, as far as I’m concerned, there have to be followers. Somebody is leading and somebody is putting themselves on the line, even if it’s one good shift. You have to follow it with your good shift and your good effort. We need the leaders to take charge and show the way, but we need people ready to follow in their footsteps and play hard. I think we have those people.”

The Thrashers have not had a captain since the trade of Ilya Kovalchuk in February. Antropov wore an ‘A’ for several games after the trade.

For a team that’s had as much turnover and additions as the Thrashers have had this off-season, not naming a captain right away isn’t the worst thing in the world to do. What also could be playing a role in this decision is the lack of players signed on with the team in the long term.

Take a look at the Thrashers team as far as contracts are concerned. Only ten players are signed beyond this season, and of those ten, four of them have their deals end after next season. Naming a team captain is a commitment to the future for many teams, and the Thrashers could use that type of thing, but they’ve got to be smarter about it.

When the team named Ilya Kovalchuk captain, they were showing their hand to him hoping that by making that sort of commitment to him he’d want to stick around in Atlanta. You could say that perhaps the Thrashers are “once bitten, twice shy” when it comes to handing out the “C” but in this case, it’s just not true.

There’s a lot of youth in Atlanta and having someone who’s viewed to be a long-term Thrasher emerge as the team leader is the optimal situation. From a fan’s perspective, however, it’s a bit annoying to not have a team captain out on the ice. The captain doesn’t just lead the team on the ice, he’s the focus of attention for the fans off of it whether they like it or not.

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    The Buzzer: Thornton moves up all-time scoring list; Kings snap six-game losing skid

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    Players of the Night:

    Brian Elliott looked solid in Philadelphia’s overtime win over the Capitals, as he turned aside 27 of 28 shots. This was the first time in eight games that the Flyers netminder allowed fewer than three goals in a game, but he’s still been victorious in three of his last four outings.

    • How about that goalie duel between Connor Hellebuyck and Anders Nilsson. The Jets won the game, but both goaltenders were fantastic during this all-Canadian matchup.

    • Sticking with the goalie theme, Aaron Dell was fantastic between the pipes for in San Jose’s win against Anaheim. Even when starter Martin Jones comes back from a lower-body injury, Dell should continue to be a factor for the Sharks.

    • Sharks forward Mikkel Boedker had a solid night at the office, as he racked up two goals and an assist against the Ducks. That’s impressive considering he only had 12 points on the season coming into tonight’s action.

    • The Kings’ power play isn’t a player, but it came to play tonight against the Rangers. Los Angeles got three goals on the man-advantage from Jake Muzzin, Michael Amadio and Tanner Pearson. Those three power play markers helped them snap their six-game losing skid.

    Highlights:

    Poor Markus Granlund never saw Hellebuyck coming:

    That’s a pretty sweet shot from Kevin Labanc:

    Here are two pretty sweet backhand passes leading up to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare‘s goal:

    Alex Ovechkin scored a power play from his favorite spot on the ice:

    Non-called Penalty of the Night:

    That’s a pretty dangerous hit by Dmitry Orlov on Claude Giroux. No boarding call?

    Factoids:

    That’s a lot of power play goals for Ovechkin:

    Joe Thornton keeps movin’ on up:

    The Rangers have received some balanced scoring this season:

    The Golden Knights simply can’t be stopped. What a season they’re having:

    Scores:

    Flyers 2, Capitals 1 (OT)

    Golden Knights 5, Hurricanes 1

    Jets 1, Canucks 0

    Sharks 6, Ducks 2

    Kings 4, Rangers 2

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    Fight Video: Kempe comes to Lewis’ defense by dropping gloves with Smith

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    It’s not every day that you see Los Angeles Kings forward Adrian Kempe drop the gloves, but he did so against the Rangers tonight.

    Things got chippy at the end of the first period between the Rangers and Kings. As both teams were mixing it up, New York’s Brendan Smith shoved Trevor Lewis from behind. Kempe wasn’t impressed with Smith’s move, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

    Here’s Smith’s shove on Lewis:

    And this is the fight between Smith and Kempe:

    (h/t: hayyyshayyy on Twitter)

    As you can tell from the above video, Smith is the more experienced fighter. Also, Kempe has great hair, but it’s clearly not practical when dropping the gloves.

    Thanks to Smith, the Kings got a power play to start the second period. Defenseman Jake Muzzin cashed in on the man-advantage to cut Los Angeles’ deficit to 2-1.

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    Expansion Golden Knights are officially in first place (Update)

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    Just like we all predicted in September, the Vegas Golden Knights are sitting in first place in the NHL.

    The Golden Knights’ 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes allowed them to collect their 65th and 66th points of the season, which moved them one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for top spot in the league (both teams have played 46 games).

    PHT’s Adam Gretz wrote a terrific piece about Golden Knights’ amazing first season to date.

    It’s only fitting that Vegas got a good amount of production from some of their most pleasant surprises tonight. Jonathan Marchessault, Colin Miller and James Neal also found the back of the net.

    As you’d expect, the Golden Knights’ Twitter account is having fun marking this occasion.

    “Maybe a little unexpected, right?,” Marc-Andre Fleury said of his team’s success, per NHL.com. “It’s been a lot of fun. We started this team from scratch and chemistry was built very quick between us. Every night, all the guys bring their best effort. I’m proud of our team to be where we’re at right now.”

    We’ve had over three months to come to grips with everything the Golden Knights have done, but it’s still amazing to see how some of the players on their roster have produced during Vegas’ inaugural season.

     

    43 points in 43 games for Marchessault? 25 goals at the midway point of the season for William Karlsson? Nobody saw those things coming. What makes this even more impressive is that they’ve had to roll four goalies (Fleury, Oscar Dansk, Malcolm Subban and Maxime Lagace).

    “Early on in the year, I think we surprised some teams. Now I think every team will get up to play us. It’s just something that will be another test for this group,” Miller told NHL.com.

    Now the question is, how far can this pesky expansion team go?

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    Struggling Lightning lose Ondrej Palat for indefinite period of time

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning have been going through a difficult stretch lately and things got a lot more difficult on Sunday. The team announced that Ondrej Palat is out indefinitely after taking a spear from Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon on Saturday night.

    The Bolts, who are on an eight-game road trip, have confirmed that Palat will head back to Tampa on Monday for further testing. He’s accumulated eight goals and 30 points in 46 games this season.

    Although the video isn’t the clearest, this is the play that led to the injury:

    The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the Lightning have been slumping badly of late. They’ve dropped three games in a row to Calgary, Vegas and Minnesota.

    Their once giant lead atop the Atlantic Division has dwindled to three points over the Boston Bruins, who have a game in hand.

    “We’re just out of synch, it’s unreal,” head coach Jon Cooper said, per The Tampa Times. “The guys didn’t forget how to play hockey in the last week and a half. We’re just out of synch. One guy zigs, the other guy zags. It’s crazy that in the last week and a half, we kind of lost our swag.”

    The Bolts will continue their road trip in Chicago, Nashville and Philadelphia before the All-Star break. On top of their difficult schedule, they’ll also be without number one defenseman Victor Hedman for the next few weeks.

    Their spot in the playoffs isn’t in any danger, but the number one seed in the league (Vegas is coming in a hurry) and top spot in the division is in doubt.

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.