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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    Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

    Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

    With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

    It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

    Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

    The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

    Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

    If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

    Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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    Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

    An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

    After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

    You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

    Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

    Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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    Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

    Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

    Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

    Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.

    Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

    An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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    Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

    Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

    Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

    Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

    “It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

    Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

    People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.