The Thrashers are off to a good start both offensively [15 goals, 2nd in the NHL], and defensively [6 goals against], after their first 3 games. While it’s true that they scored all 15 goals in 2 back to back games against Washington last weekend [7-3, 8-1] this team is not one that the Habs should take lightly. Their power play has been outstanding, accounting for over half of their goals [8 of 15] and assists [14 of 24].
Top centre Marc Savard, is red hot, with 8 points in his first 3 games. The league brass took notice and awarded him the first player of the week honors. His main winger is equally hot: Petr Bondra [3 goals, 6 assists]. Relative newcomer JP Vigier rounds out their top line.
The team had big news to announce on Saturday, signing RFA superstar Ilya Kovalchuk to a 5 year contract for just under 32 million dollars. His first NHL appearance should be against the Habs, but that decision will be based on what kind of game shape he will be in, though presumably he should be ready.
Until Kovalchuk returns, the 2nd line the Habs are likely to face include centre Bobby Holik and wingers Marian Hossa and Vyachislav. Kozlov. The third line has veteran centre Patrick Stefan and wingers Scott Mellanby and Serge Aubin. The fourth line appears to include centre Ronald Petrovicky along with wingers Brad Larsen and Eric Boulton.
Meanwhile, the Habs have been very successful through their first 4 games, starting the season 3-1 after Tuesday night’s home opening 4-2 loss to Ottawa. The Habs played well at times, but struggled with their consistency. In the end, the third, and game winning, goal against them was a controversial one, as Theodore had been interfered with in his own crease a moment before the puck went in. The Habs continued to go with their tweaked lineup from their game against the Leafs, dropping struggling winger Pierre Dagenais and switching rookie defenceman Mark Streit for Mike Komisarek. Coach Julien indicated that Dagenais may return to the lineup, but given the way forward rookies Chris Higgins and Alexander Perezhogin have played, the onus will be on Pierre to produce quickly, or else he may permanently lose his spot.
The Habs will have to recover from the disappointing loss quickly, as they landed in Atlanta early this morning for their 7pm match against the Thrashers tonight. The team will have to focus on shutting down Atlanta’s deadly power play to be successful.