Maybe a change of atmosphere is what the Atlanta Thrashers needed. A new attitude under a new coach could lead to even more chemistry developing with the team away from home for the next two weeks.
Coming off their first win in their first game after a coaching change, the Thrashers try to improve upon their particularly poor play on the road as they kick off a seven-game trip Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Atlanta (1-6-0) was the only winless team in the NHL when coach Bob Hartley was fired on Wednesday. General manager Don Waddell took over on an interim basis, and following a morning skate which seemed much looser than previous sessions under Hartley, the Thrashers defeated the New York Rangers 5-3 on Thursday.
"From my own experience, it always helps when you make trades or change coaches," Atlanta winger Slava Kozlov said. "I hope it's going to take the pressure off."
The Thrashers had lost 10 consecutive games when counting a first-round sweep to the Rangers in their first playoff appearance following the best regular season in franchise history. They won the Southeast Division with a club-record 97 points, but this Atlanta team maintains the league's worst record - every other team has at least two wins.
"When you're 0-6, you've got to put that behind you," Waddell said. "If you're trying to fight uphill, it looks like a mountain. I never even mentioned it to the guys."
The uphill climb continues away from home as the Thrashers begin their longest road trip of the season. Their next home game comes on Nov. 6 against Washington.
None of Atlanta's three road games have been close, losing each by at least three goals while getting outscored 15-2. The Thrashers have been shut out in the last two, going scoreless in 131 minutes, 2 seconds away from home since Kozlov's third-period goal in a 5-2 loss at Tampa Bay on Oct. 6.
Atlanta has been outshot in all three road games, by a 95-66 margin overall, while going 1-for-17 on the power play as its opponents have gone 5-for-17.
Thrashers winger Pascal Dupuis, who scored his first goal of the season Thursday, was glad the team was starting a long road trip.
"Not because we are going to be away from our fans," he said, "but because I think it's going to be good for team bonding. Hopefully, we can put some wins together."
A win might be tough to come by in Tampa Bay (3-2-0). The Thrashers have lost their last four games there, and the Lightning have won all three of their home games this season.
Tampa, though, is coming off back-to-back road losses.
Brad Richards scored to bring the Lightning within 2-1 in the second period, but that's the only goal they managed among their 30 shots over the final two periods.
"Our effort was there, but we just couldn't get that second goal," said St. Louis, who has yet to score after netting a career-high 43 goals last season.
Tampa's offense looks to bounce back against Johan Hedberg, who takes over as Atlanta's No. 1 goalie with Kari Lehtonen going on the injured list Friday. Waddell said Lehtonen would 'be out a while,' but the team feels this groin injury is not as serious as the one that kept him sidelined for more than two months in 2005.
While 2005 second-round pick Ondrej Pavalec was called up from the AHL, he will be used sparingly behind Hedberg. The seven-year veteran stopped 27 of 30 shots Thursday, but has been awful in four appearances overall this season with a 4.15 goals-against average and .873 save percentage.
"A lot has happened over the last two days," Hedberg said after winning Thursday. "We are starting a new season and we wanted to start off in a good way."
|Apr 05 '08||TBL 1 at ATL 4||C. Armstrong|
|Mar 31 '08||ATL 2 at TBL 0||I. Kovalchuk|
|Feb 09 '08||TBL 1 at ATL 2 - OT||A. Zhitnik|
|Dec 18 '07||TBL 2 at ATL 6||V. Kozlov|
|Nov 19 '07||TBL 3 at ATL 4 - OT||T. White|
|Nov 03 '07||ATL 6 at TBL 4||P. Dupuis|
|Oct 20 '07||ATL 2 at TBL 6||V. Lecavalier|
|Oct 06 '07||ATL 2 at TBL 5||B. Richards|