Kari Lehtonen went from a red-hot November to an up and down December, finishing with a 4-3 record and a 3.23 GAA. However, he did finish the month with shutouts against Florida and Toronto.
After Lehtonen cooled down, Johan Hedberg saw the majority of his action for the season, and helped get the Thrashers back on track with a 4-2 record and a 2.59 GAA.
Areas Of Concern
The team’s penalty kill was pretty anemic in November, and allowed 17 goals in 78 power plays in November, for 78.2 percent.
The team’s power play has also been inconsistent, but still managed 14 goals in 75 chances for 18.67 percent.
Injuries Hit Defense Hard
After starting out with the season relatively healthy, the injury bug has come on strong, particularly on the defensive corps.
Andy Sutton suffered a cracked ankle bone in practice on Nov. 28, and will be out at least two months. Garnet Exelby was also placed on injured reserve with mononucleosis on Nov. 12 and is out indefinitely. Steve McCarthy missed eight games with a shoulder injury, but returned on Nov. 30. Even the team’s top defenseman, Niclas Havelid, missed eight games due to the death of his mother.
Those situations opened the door for Shane Hnidy, Braydon Coburn and Mark Popovic to get some playing time. Hnidy, who had been scratched for the season’s first nine games, had to step in and play on the team’s top two defensive lines. Hnidy responded by netting his first goal in 202 games in a win over Washington, and has been rewarded with first-line minutes. Coburn, the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2003, returned from the separated shoulder he suffered in training camp and seems to be getting more comfortable at the NHL level with every game. Popovic filled in for two games, netting an assist and going back to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves with a +1 rating.
Meat And Potatoes Line Scoring Well
The so-called “Meat and Potatoes” line of Bobby Holik, Brad Larsen and J.P. Vigier are usually counted on to defend the other team’s top line, but they have been chipping in on offense. Holik had perhaps his best game of the season against his old team, the Rangers, on Nov. 28 netting two goals, including the game-winner in overtime.
Larsen is still near the top of the league in shorthanded goals with two and points with three.
Some Hard Feelings Against Washington
The last few minutes of Atlanta’s 4-2 win at Washington on Nov. 22 was marred by several fights, as Washington coach Glen Hanlon was incensed that Thrashers defenseman Andy Sutton missed a check on Capitals defenseman Mike Green. 160 penalty minutes were racked up by both teams in the final frame. Hanlon even tried to goad Thrashers head coach Bob Hartley to a fight, and made chicken motions towards the Atlanta bench.
The two teams meet again in Atlanta Dec. 15.
Thrashers Finally Beat Toronto
For the first time in three years, the Atlanta Thrashers beat the Maple Leafs, scoring a decisive 5-0 win on Nov. 30.
Hossa netted a hat trick, and Kozlov had four assists. Lehtonen was very sharp in goal,
The Thrashers hadn’t won against Toronto since a 3-2 overtime win on Oct. 27, 2003. The two teams will face each other one more time March 29.
Bob Hartley reached a coaching milestone, achieving 300 career wins with the Thrashers’ victory over Florida on Nov. 25. He currently has 303 career wins.
Andy Sutton played the 400th career NHL game against Washington on Nov. 22. Sutton has 97 points and 755 PIMs in 402 games.
Bobby Holik netted the 300th goal of his career against Washington on Nov. 22. Holik now has 302 goals and 388 assists in 1116 career games. The game-winner at New York on Nov. 28 gave him 54 for his career.
Key Thrashers Upcoming Games:
Wed. Dec. 13 Anaheim
Tue. 19 at New Jersey
Tue. 26 Tampa Bay
Sat. 30 at Buffalo