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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    Islanders shut out Canadiens for huge road win

    NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 18:  Thomas Greiss #1 of the New York Islanders in action against the New Jersey Devils on February 18, 2017 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Islanders 3-2.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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    Overall this season the New York Islanders have really struggled away from the Barclays Center, a point of concern when you consider how many road games they have down the stretch as they try to overcome their miserable start to climb back into the playoffs.

    Their current nine-game road trip is off to a promising start with wins in the first two games, including a 3-0 shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night to improve their record to 12-4-2 under new coach Doug Weight.

    The Islanders received goals from Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee and John Tavares in the win, while Thomas Greiss stopped all 24 shots he faced to record his third shutout of the season.

    With the win the Islanders hold sole possession of the second wild card spot in the East for the time being, two points ahead of Florida and Boston (the Bruins are in action right now) and continue their stunning second half turnaround.

    But while things are going great for the Islanders right now, the struggles in Montreal continue.

    With their loss on Thursday they failed to put any extra distance between themselves and the rest of the Atlantic Division that has suddenly closed the gap on them. They remain just two points up on Ottawa and only four points ahead of Toronto. The loss also continues what has been a particularly brutal stretch over the past couple of months that has seen the team win just seven of its past 20 games.

    It’s probably too early to start fully panicking in Montreal, but given the way the end of last season went this can’t be a promising development for Canadiens fans.

    Blackhawks’ Hjalmarsson leaves game against Coyotes

    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 22:  Niklas Hjalmarsson #4 of the Chicago Blackhawks looks to pass against the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center on January 22, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Canucks 4-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    After taking just four shifts in in the first period of Thursday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson had to leave Thursday’s game with an unspecified injury.

    The Blackhawks did not offer any update on what forced Hjalmarsson out of the game, only to say he would be out for the remainder of the evening.

    Fortunately for the Blackhawks they dressed seven defensemen for the game when Michal Rozsival drew back into the lineup, so they still have a full lineup of defenders to finish the game. Surprisingly, Rozsival scored his first goal of the season just two minutes into the second period, breaking what had been a 3-3 tie following a wild first period that saw the teams combine for six goals.

    In 59 games this season Hjalmarsson had five goals and nine assists while playing more than 20 minutes per night, mostly on a pairing with Duncan Keith.

    Blackhawks and Coyotes combine for six goals in wild first period

    CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 18:  Nick Schmaltz #8 of the Chicago Blackhawks moves against the Edmonton Oilers at the United Center on February 18, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Oilers defeated the Blackhawks 3-1.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    The first period of Thursday’s Blackhawks-Coyotes game had just a little bit of excitement as the two teams combined for six goals, including two by the Coyotes in the final three minutes of the period to erase what had been a two-goal deficit.

    All of the action started just 37 seconds into the game when Nick Schmaltz, playing on his 21st birthday, scored his sixth goal of the season (shown above) on a feed from a still white hot Jonathan Toews.

    Seven minutes later, Coyotes rookie defenseman Jakob Chychrun scored his second goal in his as many games to get things even at one.

    That is when the chaos started to break out. The Blackhawks quickly struck for two more goals when Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane scored six minutes apart to give the Blackhawks what would end up being a very short-lived 3-1 lead. Just one minute after Kane’s goal Ryan White netted his seventh of the season to bring the Coyotes back to within one, a goal that was followed by Radim Vrbata‘s 13th of the season just one minute after that.

    Here are the two Coyotes goals that tied it.

    Chicago came into the game on Thursday on a goal scoring tear, scoring at least four goals in seven of their past eight games. They are off to a great start when it comes to reaching that mark again on Thursday.

    Trouble is, they can not seem to keep the puck out of their net on Thursday.

    WATCH LIVE: Arizona Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks

    GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 07:  Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates with the puck against the Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Phoenix Coyotes in the second period at Jobing.com Arena on February 7, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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    Winners of seven of their past eight, the Chicago Blackhawks are back home on Thursday night to take on the Arizona Coyotes.

    The Blackhawks have been on a roll lately, especially offensively, scoring 34 goals in their past eight games. They have scored at least four goals in seven of those games. Captain Jonathan Toews has been doing a lot of the work offensively lately and is having a huge second half after a disappointing start to the season offensively.

    On Thursday they host a Coyotes team that has shown a lot of improvement in recent weeks, putting together an 8-4-1 record since Jan. 20.

    Puck drop for Thursday is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET and you can catch all off the action on NBCSN or on our Live Stream.

    Click here for the Live Stream

    Preview: Jonathan Toews looks to stay hot against Coyotes