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Great news for Atlanta pro sports: Thrashers, Hawks ownership group settles six-year skirmish

On the ice, the Atlanta Thrashers are prospering a year or two ahead of schedule thanks in some part to what was clearly a shrewd trade to acquire (and properly use) big defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. The bulky defenseman keeps putting up points while goalie Ondrej Pavelec and the rest of team is playing better hockey than they ever did with their most famous player, Ilya Kovalchuk.

Yet off the ice, the Thrashers and the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks have been mired in an ownership squabble that lasted six years and surely handcuffed the two pro sports franchises as they attempted to court the sometimes-fickle Atlanta market.

While GM Rick Dudley likely won’t get any more money to continue building the Thrashers because of the deal now (or possibly in the future), there’s at least renewed clarity. The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Kristi E. Schwartz reports that the Atlanta Spirit finally settled their lawsuit with former partner Steve Belkin, who held a 30 percent stake in the two teams.

Part of the settlement includes seven of the group’s co-owners buying out former partner Steve Belkin’s 30 percent stake in the group. There are no new investors in line to replace Belkin.

Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson will serve as managing partners of the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers and Philips Arena.

“I think if you talk to anyone in either organization, they will tell you that this lawsuit has had zero impact. Zero,” Levenson said. “At the end of the day, we had a business partner who we were in a dispute with and we have settled that dispute. It may sound a lot more complicated but that’s really what happened.”

The most important thing – for hockey fans, at least – is if this deal has any impact on the Thrashers remaining in Hotlanta. It sounds like the group is determined to keep the team in Atlanta, even though they acknowledged the fact that the team still faces some challenges when it comes to growing the sport in the area.

Meanwhile, the Thrashers had been targeted as a franchise that could possibly be relocated, with the Canadian cities of Hamilton, Quebec and Winnepeg among the list of possible new homes.

Gearon and Levenson have both said previously they were committed to keeping the team in Atlanta and told reporters Wednesday night that “no other changes are planned.”

While many fans are really hoping for a seventh team in Canada, the Thrashers have an interesting thing going here and look like they’re actually building a team with a clear focus for the first time … ever. They’ve even come up with a clever “Free Thrash” campaign to draw mainstream attention. I’d love to see this team develop a cult following in Atlanta and then maybe – just maybe – become the kind of non-traditional drawing power that the Dallas Stars were until the last few seasons in Texas.

Who knows what kind of impact this lawsuit will have (perhaps “zero” like the group claims), but hopefully the Thrashers will get a chance to keep this great momentum going.

Fight Video: Schenn, Chychrun drop the gloves as Coyotes score

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Brayden Schenn had a big game in Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.

He scored a goal and had two assists in the defeat, but he also dropped the gloves with rookie Jakob Chychrun.

As you can tell by the video at the top of the page, Chychrun went after Schenn because the Flyers forward flattened Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone (Chychrun got two additional minutes for instigating and a 10-minute misconduct).

The fight occurred just as Martin Hanzal scored to the go-ahead goal in the game.

The officials reviewed it to see if it would stand or not (ultimately it did).

The momentum swung Arizona’s way after that, as they scored 1:39 later to extend their lead to 4-2.

PHT Morning Skate: Scheifele and Seguin play rock, paper, scissors after pregame warmup

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–How do you decide who gets to be the last player off the ice after warmups? Play rock, paper, scissors of course! (Top)

Connor McDavid has the city of Edmonton buzzing again. (The New York Times)

–The fight against Alzheimer’s means a lot to Leafs president Brendan Shanahan. (Sports Illustrated)

–Justin Bieber played hockey with a pro team in the UK and pulled off a serious celebration. (BarDown)

–Would Wayne Gretzky have set all those records if he was playing in today’s NHL? Mike Brophy weighs in. (

–Six forgotten players that are off to fast starts in 2016-17. (USA Today)

Kings win ugly with Budaj, making things even uglier for Predators

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31:  Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings reacts to the overtime goal of Jeff Carter #77 to beat the Nashville Predators 4-3 at Staples Center on October 31, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

How would you describe the Nashville Predators’ Stanley Cup bandwagon at the moment? A few flat tires? One of those abandoned school buses at a dump?

An unlikely occurrence – Peter Budaj winning four straight games for the Los Angeles Kings, all in overtime, all seriously in 2016 – puts a spotlight on an unsightly start for Nashville following a 3-2 OT decision.

In other words, it was another night where the Predators (early or not) didn’t look the part of Stanley Cup contenders.

Pekka Rinne has often been the scapegoat for Nashville’s losses, and his recent numbers justify some of the criticisms. Thursday doesn’t fall into that pattern, however. Instead, the Predators wasted a strong performance from their $7 million man, who stopped 42 out of 45 shots.

Budaj? He only needed to make 24 out of 26 stops to keep his unexpected winning streak going.

For the Kings and Predators, very different patterns continued on Thursday night.

Los Angeles has people wondering “How long can they win with Budaj?” and “Is there a team that can finally hog the puck against the Kings enough to expose him?” Don’t blame Kings fans who never want this strange sequence to end.

Nashville devotees, on the other hand, must wonder if they’re stuck in some sort of sick nightmare.

They’ve been a chic pick to win it all, yet they’re now at 2-4-1 with three away contests remaining on a challenging five-game road trip.

It’s early, but the headaches just keep multiplying for the Preds.

Mrazek comes up big as Red Wings win sixth in a row

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 21: Petr Mrazek #34 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on in the first period while playing the Nashville Predators at Joe Louis Arena on October 21, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Are the Detroit Red Wings for real or are they headed toward a humbling regression? We might have to wait until their goalies look human before that question can really be answered.

For yet another game, Detroit’s netminder was outstanding, with Petr Mrazek helping the Red Wings beat the St. Louis 2-1 via a shootout (and a pretty stressful shootout in that).

It took eight rounds until Henrik Zetterberg managed Detroit’s second and decisive tally of the “skills competition,” and now Detroit is on a six-game winning streak.

Mrazek made 31 out of 32 games through overtime and was only beaten by Alex Steen in that shootout, stopping seven of eight attempts. He’s faced more than 30 shots on goal in all six of his appearances in 2016-17.

It is not as if there has been a big drop-off when Jimmy Howard has taken the net, either. Howard has only given up one goal in his two games, winning both of them.

Are the Red Wings asking a lot of Mrazek and Howard? Yep. Just take a look a this lopsided possession chart from Natural Stat Trick for another reminder.


You can see why skeptics murmur about this six-game winning streak being fool’s gold, but the Red Wings keep finding a way to win. Usually, it’s their goalies who have been doing the heavy lifting.