The Atlanta Thrashers come to the RBC tonight with their division leading, and franchise history best 7-1-1 record. Their only regulation time loss came at the hands of the Canes thanks in part to Ray Whitney's last second floater which found the back of the net as time expired in Atlanta about 10 days ago. Coach Bob Hartley and boys will be looking to keep their hot streak going and will also be looking for some revenge. Marian Hossa is the big horse for them leading the team with 10 goals and 15 points, but the always dangerous Ilya Kovalchuk had a hat-trick his last game and could be finding his scoring touch. Kozlov and Kovalchuk both have 12 points each. Heralded goalie prospect Kari Lehtonen is living up to the lofty expectations placed upon him and has played extremely well so far in goal. Kari has started each and every game for the Thrashers and has a GAA of 1.96 and save percentage of .929 which puts him within the top 5 ranked goalies in the entire league.
The Canes came limping home after completing a 7 game road swing that ended with 2 straight loses and several players injured. But they have had several days off now and some of the walking wounded might be ready to dress for this game. Andrew Ladd was taken off the injured list and Bret Hedican, Glen Wesley, and Niclas Wallin all have been back to practice. Whether or not they will be able to play will be a game time decision for them and coach Laviolette. Trevor Letowski was also back on the ice for practice but is doubtful for this game.
Justin Williams, Rod Brind'Amour, and Ray Whitney lead the team with 10 points each. Eric Staal has 8 points while Scott Walker has 7. Erik Cole has been drawing penalties with his speed but has been less than effective scoring with only 5 points and 1 goal so far this year. We need him to regain his scoring touch from last year. Cam Ward finds himself as the 17th ranked goalie in the league right now with a 3-3-1 record, a .905 save percentage, and a GAA of 2.96.
Atlanta has been a slow starting team this year as they have had several come from behind wins. The Canes had a 3-0 lead on them before they tied us 3-3 and almost took the game to overtime. Sometimes the first home game after a long road trip can be a stinker, but the Canes have had a few days between games to get their legs back. They need to take advantage of Atlanta's traditional slow start, take the lead, and keep the pressure on them. The Thrashers have 15 points so far to our 8 as both of us have played 9 games. While the season is still in it's infancy, we can't afford to get too far back in our division. Everyone will need to bring their A game tonight. Go Canes!
Atlanta Rhythm Section