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Gameday: Thrashers Host Bolts - Live Together, Die Alone

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v.
Atlanta Thrashers Tampa Bay Lightning
Philips Arena
7:00PM
TV: SportSouth Radio: 680 the FAN
SBNation: Game Page, Raw Charge
TSN Coverage
Ondrej Pavelec
Antero Niittymaki
(12-13-4 .903% 3.47) (12-9-5, .916% 2.53)

Games don't come much bigger than this. Why? Find out after the jump.

With all of these convoluted storylines, tonight's game uncannily resembles the season premiere of LOST that's sure to be battling for your attention. Can the Thrashers slay the Nitty giant? Can they take a theoretical four points from TB? What will the playoff race look like after tonight? Will we ever see Slava Kozlov again after his kidnapping by the Press Box People? What is the source of Jim Slater's recently acquired magical goal-scoring abilities? How will this game affect the Ilya Kovalchuk Three-Ring Circus & Big Top™? Will he step off the ice to find he's been sacrificed to the Big Orange Monster?


Here's what we know about the Lightning:

- Atlanta has a 1-1-2 record against them this year, and this is their last visit to Philips. The Thrashers only win was against Tampa's Mike Smith. In what can only be called a case of riding the hot hand, Lightning coach Rick Tocchet is starting Niittymaki and his 15-0-0 record against Atlanta.

- TBL center Steven Stamkos is white hot to the tune of eight points (4g, 4a) in his last five games. Fun Fact! Stamkos is currently in a three way tie for the NHL lead for power play goals scored (12)! Yes, we have seen quite enough Stamkos, thanks.

- The Lightning have gone to overtime in three of their last five games, and Niitty's been in goal for all of them.

- The Lightning have their own off-ice dramas to deal with - the future of their superstar and an ownership drama. Brian John Fontana over at Raw Charge has the scoop.

For your Atlanta Thrashers;

- Marc Popovic is back in tonight after missing 27 games with a broken foot. Anssi Salmela is a healthy scratch.

- Great tough guy quote from Ondrej Pavelec in the above article:

Ondrej Pavelec will start in goal, his first start in five games. He will be opposed by Antero Niittymaki, who is 15-0-0 career against the Thrashers. "I’m not playing against Niittymaki," Pavelec said. "I’m playing against Tampa Bay."

Beautiful.

Tim's Notes on the Thrashers

I hope my little post earlier didn't burst anybody's bubble. The Thrashers played better in January than in December, but thanks to the horrendous slide they saw at the end of 2009, Feburary and March are going to have to go better than January if the Thrashers hope to make the playoffs.

January saw the Thrashers go 6-5-4 for 16 points in 15 games. That's a hell of a lot better than December, and in line with their October (5-4-1), but they'll need to pick it up to make the playoffs. The rest of the way, the boys in blue will need to run about 4 games above 0.500 to have a good shot at a playoff position. 3 games above 0.500 gives them something like a 50/50 shot. Of course, it'll also depend on who those wins come against and how many garbage points teams pick up, but that gives you a good target: 6 or 7 games above 0.500. This is much, much lower than in the past. Thanks, Western Conference, for beating the crap out of the Eastern Conference.

Tonight's Three Themes for the Thrashers:

  1. You're Notty-making Any Sense: If there's a guy who really just keeps pushing the Thrashers' button, it's Antero Niittymaki. 15-0-0 against the Thrashers. Something's got to give.
  2. Beware the Others: We all know how dangerous Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier are. In case if you've been living under a rock, the Bolts also have this kid named Stamkos who is pretty good... But did you know that there's some guy named Ryan Malone who has over 20 goals this season? And a punk named Steve Downie who's managed to score 11 goals when he wasn't sitting in the penalty box (149 PIMs so far)?
  3. No Man is (on) an Island: Teamwork. Do it. The Thrashers have given up a number of goals lately thanks to poor neutral zone turnovers. The Lightning have several skaters with quick-strike capability. Do the math. The Thrashers need to play a solid team game, provide support in the neutral zone, and control the puck over the blueline. Forwards need to be quick about getting back to the point when defensemen move up into play. I swear I say the same thing every week... sigh.

I'll be at the game. Say hi if you see me.

STATS
54 GP 54
22 W 24
21 L 22
11 OT 8
55 P 56
0.509 P% 0.519
2.52 G/G 2.98
2.87 GA/G 3.15
19.6 PP% 17.7
79.4 PK% 80.5
29.1 S/G 29.5
31.0 SA/G 33.4
51.3 FO% 50.7