ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 25: Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Atlanta Thrashers heads to the ice to play against the Carolina Hurricanes at Philips Arena on September 25 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
In the first (disappointing) pre-season home game the Thrashers iced a line up of mostly rookies or guys battling just to make the NHL roster. On Saturday night the team put forward a roster that is not that far removed from a regular season NHL lineup. The visiting Caroline Hurricanes did the same thing starting Eric Staal, Cole, Ruutu and Cam Ward in net. The Hurricanes ended up the victors scoring the solitary goal off a rebound that went to the left of Thrashers goalie Chris Mason. It also featured a lengthy delay after Sergei Samsonov went head first into the boards and was eventually taken off on a stretcher.
Despite being shut out in the game, the Thrashers played some entertaining hockey and had several quality scoring chances. Here are the players that stood out to me:
Chris Mason: He looked very calm and very big in the net. His movement was good side to side. I don't claim to understand the finer points of goaltending but speaking as a defenseman his body language was good--he looked poised and confident. If he plays like that during the regular season, he will be a plus for the Thrashers on many nights.
Fredrik Pettersson: Once again he was a buzz-saw on the ice making hits, nice passes and smart decisions. He remains consistently impressive. Of the players battling to win a NHL roster spot, he is the early leader to make the club in my opinion. He was second on the team with 4 shots on goal.
Fredrik Modin: He stood out more on Saturday then in my previous viewings. He used his size and seemed to work very well with fellow Swedes Enstrom and Pettersson. He led the team with 5 shots.
Dustin Byfuglien: He was VERY offensive minded pinching in all the way to the offensive blueline numerous times. His teammates seemed aware of his pinches and I can only recall one occasion where it led to a 2>1 against the Thrashers. His defense was OK, but not great, it might get better with time since he played forward most of last year.
Bryan Little: Appeared to flying along playing with Modin and Pettersson. Coach Ramsey mentioned that he would see PK duty this year and he played over 2 minutes when the Thrashers were down a man. I've always wondered why he didn't get a chance to work on the PK considering that he has great skating ability and the Atlanta PK has struggled for years.
Ben Eager: I know that GM Rick Dudley spoke highly of him when the Thrashers acquired him in a trade. To be honest I didn't really remember him standing out so I was curious to see him skate in a Thrashers jersey. He does indeed bring a nice physicality to the forecheck and he can skate well enough that he will not hold back his linemates. If he's on the 4th line he will be an above average 4th line guy. He might even be able to hold his own on the 3rd line. Time will tell how big of a role he earns for himself.