Tonight's matchup is the third for these two teams with Atlanta winning both of the previous games. Each was decided by one goal, and the last time Atlanta visited Florida, it went to the shootout. Expect another close game as both teams are coming off wins--Thrashers over the Rangers (3-2 SO), and Panthers with a killing on the Islanders (7-1). Nathan Horton had a hat trick and Steven Weiss is still putting up points, so the Thrashers need to watch out for the Panthers top line.
How do they get two points out of this one? Check the break to find out.
1. Shoot the puck. The Thrashers have outshot the Panthers in both the previous contests, and ignoring any attempted goalie fratricide, it has worked out well. Tomas Vokoun had 30 saves in his last game and has a 9.24 SV%. Battle of the Czech's may continue with Ondrej Pavelec in goal especially after the beating Johan Hedberg took by making a career high 46 saves the other night.
2. Don't enjoy the weather. It may be sunny and warm outside the BankAtlantic Center, but it's winter time, so show up early. The Thrashers have been stale the first period in their recent stretch and although the team is capable of coming back, they have a much better record when scoring first (11-1). Keep up that record (as well as their road record of 10-5-1) and they should be fine. Also note that the Panthers have struggled at home (4-6-5).
3. Variable scoring. As it appears the first two lines have been struggling at even strength, John Anderson has startedto mix up his lines. Colby Armstrong has stepped up even though he hasn't moved, and has goals in 4 straight (although the last one was short-handed). Nik Antropov, after starting his first 17 games without a goal, has 2 goals in his last 3 games. Kozlov had a beauty on the PP the other night in NY and Bryan Little has looked good so far with Ilya Kovalchuk and Antropov. Here's to hoping he can pot one this next game.
If the previous two games were any indication, this should be an entertaining one, even if we have to watch it from the couch. The defense will need to be better as the Panthers have some scorers, and the Thrashers need to stay disciplined. Let's hope the special teams got some practice in yesterday in Florida as both the power play and penalty kill have been struggling. Every goal last game was with special teams on the ice, but the Thrashers failed to convert on a 1:26 second two man advantage.
Enjoy the game and check back in come game time.