TheHubofHockey.net and Atlanta Thrashers Examiner Phil Foley preview the Boston Bruins vs. Atlanta Thrashers game tonight at the Phillips Arena.
Mark Marino: 1. What in the world is going on with the Thrashers as of late? A record of 1-3-1 in their last five and having gained just one point (OTL) in their last four, is their crammed December schedule starting to take its toll on the team?
Phil Foley: Teams go through stretches of bad hockey. The Thrashers are going through one of those stretches right now. They are missing those little details that coach Craig Ramsay is very particular about. They have been sloppy with the puck. They have taken stupid penalties and haven’t been great on the penalty kill.
Normally, Ondrej Pavelec would be there to bail them out. But he hasn’t been as sharp as he was earlier in the season. As a result, the Thrashers have struggled.
MM 2. The last time the Bruins and Thrashers met one week ago, tempers flared over an apparent high-hit on Milan Lucic from Freddy Meyer. Has that been forgotten, or does Atlanta still have that fresh in their minds…possibly looking for payback?
PF: Any time you have two teams facing off against each other within a few days and there were that many penalty minutes given out in a game, there’s bound to be a chippy game where fistacuffs happen.
Given the nature of that third period brawl that resulted in just under 100 penalty minutes, one would think that the league and the refs will be looking stop any extracurricular activities and will probably call this one a little bit tight.
If not, you could definitely expect a physical game with a few fights sprinkled in. Hockey players do have long memories, after all.
MM 3. Although getting the match penalty last week, Lucic never received that one-game suspension for the sucker punch on Meyer that a lot of people assumed he’d get. A big boy, Patrice Cormier, was just recalled by Atlanta for their last game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Is there any correlation between these two teams’ last meeting and Craig Ramsay beefing up his lineup for tomorrow night against Lucic and the Bruins?
PF: Absolutely not. The Thrashers absolutely love Cormier. He’s a tenacious player that has innate leadership abilities that can be a bit of a bruiser on the ice. He may not score a ton of goals this season, but Atlanta feels that he should turn into a scorer sometime in the future.
Cormier was destined to make the team out of training camp (likely over Alex Burmistrov), but he broke his foot at the end of prospect camp and had to round his way back into game shape.
After the injury healed, he was shipped to the Chicago Wolves – all with the understanding that he’d eventually make it back. GM Rick Dudley thought that Cormier was ready (and Nik Antropov was a bit banged up) and decided to recall him ahead of the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
MM 4. What kind of Thrashers team can we expect to see against the B’s tomorrow night inside the Phillips Arena?
PF: That’s anyone’s guess. Ramsay is calling off practice again prior to the game on Thursday. My guess is that he’s doing this because the team is a little bit tired and a little bit nicked up right now.
Ideally, it will be the same gritty team that played well earlier in the month, a team where there’s a lot of shooting, some decent cycling of the puck and a team that gets back on defense. If they can limit the turnovers and the mistakes, they should make a game of it with the Bruins. If not, it could be another long night for a very weary Thrashers team.
MM 5. Despite a poor record over the past week or so, who or what have been the unsung heroes during that span?
PF: Two Thrashers stand out. Obviously, there’s Dustin Byfuglien, who is making a serious push for the Norris this season. He has goals in three of Atlanta’s last four games.
Also, Bryan Little has been playing decent hockey for the Thrashers. He has a goal and six assists over a five-game points streak for Atlanta.