Tonight the Atlanta Thrashers visit the Northeast Division Buffalo Sabres for a pivotal matchup in the Eastern Conference standings. A win tonight puts the Thrashers within two points of the Sabres who are currently holding onto the 8th spot in the eastern conference by a loose thread. Separating the two teams are the Southeast Division rival Carolina Hurricanes currently sitting in the 9th spot with one less win then Buffalo. For Head Coach Craig Ramsey and the Atlanta Thrashers, it doesn’t get any better then the 7pm contest tonight at the HSBC Arena, with the big picture looking the way it does.
Prior to entering tonight’s game, the Thrashers are coming off a 4-3 shootout victory at the Phillips Arena on Thursday night over the Philadelphia Flyers who are 1st in the Eastern Conference. Let’s get to the highlights of the game. Defensemen Zach Bogosian skated 29:10 against the Flyers for a game high. Ondrej Pavelec turned aside 21 of 24 shots faced in regulation.
Three tallies in regulation by forwards Tim Stapleton, Bryan Little and Nik Antropov weren’t enough to seal the deal as Philadelphia stunned the Thrashers with under 2 minutes to go in the final frame to tie the game at 3-3. Eventually the shootout format would come into play. Newcomer forwards Blake Wheeler and Robbie Schremp added goals for Atlanta and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec held the Flyers scoreless turning aside both shots he faced to get Atlanta a crucial two points.
“I was just angry that they tied the game in the last minute. I’m always disappointed. It doesn’t matter how they score. We battled so hard and that’s why I was disappointed. I think we were the better team than them and I think we deserved to win. It was another tight game and finally we find a way to win,” said Pavelec in a post game interview.
The Buffalo Sabres are coming off a three day break after dropping a 1-0 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday evening. Goaltender Ryan Miller turned aside 32 of 33 shots faced against the Hurricanes. The break was much needed after playing a stretch of games in a short period of time. The Sabres will be well rested for the Thrashers tonight.
“We had a tough stretch here and we put ourselves in a good spot and this is really our last chance to kind of rejuvenate, get away from the rink which we did yesterday. Now we’ve got two good days of practice which we haven’t had in a long time, so I think it’s good for us,” Forward Tomas Vanek said when addressing the media this week.
Two points tonight are as crucial as ever for the Atlanta Thrashers. Hard work, attention to detail and a full 60 minutes is a must. Avoiding a 27th appearance in overtime would be nice, but sometimes that’s the difficult route you have to take to get two points in the win column.
Defensemen Noah Welch has been returned to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.
Thrashers sign 2009 draft pick Ben Chiarot. The 6’3 215 lb defensemen has recorded 34 points in 61 games this season for the Saginaw Spirit and Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League.