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Anderson debuts; food drives in Dallas

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

"When you look at our team on paper, I believe some teams aren't really sure what they're going to get and certainly it's up to us (as coaches) to make sure the guys are playing at their highest level each game."
--John Anderson

Some random thoughts while Philadelphia Flyers forward Simon Gagne, prepares to return from an eight-month layoff.

John Anderson will be behind the bench for the first time Thursday as coach of Atlanta when his club travels to Nashville for the Thrashers' first preseason match of the year.

"We're excited and I think we have a club that could surprise a few teams this year," Anderson said. "When you look at our team on paper, I believe some teams aren't really sure what they're going to get and certainly it's up to us (as coaches) to make sure the guys are playing at their highest level each game."
 
Anderson, who spent the past 11 seasons coaching Atlanta's American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, has been experimenting with line combinations this week. Erik Christensen, who was being considered for the team's top-line center spot, between Ilya Kovalchuk and Jason Williams, injured his right shoulder during Tuesday's intra-squad scrimmage. In Christensen's absence, Eric Perrin, Todd White or Williams could fill in at center.

While Christensen is listed as day-to-day, he will not be with the team tonight or Friday in St. Louis. Additionally, 2008 first-round pick Zach Bogosian will miss the road trip to recover from a hip flexor strain suffered just prior to training camp.

"The good thing about Zach is the fact we can keep him up through nine regular-season games and still send him back to junior and he'd still have three years left on his entry-level contract," Thrashers General Manager Don Waddell said. "So we have lots of time between exhibition and regular-season games to make a decision on his play."

Food drive in Dallas – The Dallas Stars will conduct a food drive to benefit victims of Hurricane Ike prior to Thursday's preseason home opener against the Colorado Avalanche at American Airlines Center.

"Many people's homes and lives were impacted by Hurricane Ike and this food drive is just one way we can help,” said Stars Assistant Vice President of Communications Rob Scichili. "The Dallas Stars Foundation, the North Texas Food Bank, American Airlines Center and WBAP Radio were all more than willing to help this cause, one that helps fellow Texans get through a rough time. We'd like to thank all of the fans and the entire community for contributing to the effort."

Those wishing to donate are being asked to bring non-perishable canned food between 5-8 p.m. to American Airlines Center. There will be four donation spots set up, one on each side of the building's main entrances. The North Texas Food Bank will coordinate the distribution of the food to help those affected by Hurricane Ike. Each fan who donates a canned food item will receive a voucher for a pair of free tickets to any of the team's remaining preseason home games, redeemable at the American Airlines Center box office.

Breakout Bruins – According to the Boston Herald, Bruins coach Claude Julien has been impressed with young forwards Matt Marquardt and Blake Wheeler in training camp.

"If you're going to talk about a guy who's been a pleasant surprise, it's been Matt Marquardt," Julien told the newspaper. "Good size, competes hard, a good shot. If he can improve his skating and quick feet, he's going to play in the NHL."

Marquardt, a seventh-round pick (No. 194) of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2006, was traded to the Bruins in May. He posted 43 goals and 69 points in 68 games with Moncton and Baie-Comeau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season.

 
 
Wheeler, drafted fifth by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2004 Entry Draft, became a free agent after he left the University of Minnesota prior to last season but never signed with the Coyotes. He signed an entry-level contract with the Bruins in July.

"He's knocking on the door," Julien said of Wheeler. "He's a big power forward who has skills, and a good skater for his size (6-foot-4, 185 pounds). There's no doubt he's an NHLer. How soon is up to him."

Both players hope to continue their solid play Thursday in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when the Bruins face the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.

Sbisa looking strong – While much attention has been given to the top four defensemen selected at the 2008 Entry Draft – Drew Doughty (Los Angeles), Zach Bogosian (Atlanta), Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis) and Luke Schenn (Toronto) – there's another first-round pick also opening some eyes.

Luca Sbisa, taken No. 19 by the Philadelphia Flyers, sports a plus-1 rating while averaging just more than 18 minutes in two preseason games, including time on the power-play and penalty-killing units. He finished a plus-1 with two shots in a 4-1 victory Monday against the Devils.

"He's been impressive for a young player," Flyers coach John Stevens told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "The first thing you notice right away is his fitness level for a young player. It usually takes a few years to get to the level he's at, and he scored very well in all (fitness) categories."

"Realistically, it usually takes at least two years before a defenseman makes it to the big club," Flyers Director of Player Development Don Luce told NHL.com. "Luca has a great sense for the game and he will only get stronger, so it's not going to take very long for him.

"Any player heading to the NHL might be physically able to do it, but if you're not mentally strong enough to handle the pressure, it's going to be tough. I've seen players get there with their physical ability but who weren't strong enough to deal with what happens and are now in a deeper hole than if they would have stayed in the minors in the first place. Confidence is a big thing for a young player."

The Flyers are the designated home team for Thursday's clash against the New York Islanders in London, Ontario.

Busy Panthers – When the Florida Panthers battle the Edmonton Oilers Thursday, it will mark the third of six preseason games on consecutive nights for the club.

The Panthers currently are 2-0 on their Canadian trip, which has included stops in Calgary and now Edmonton for back-to-back games. The club closes its six-games-in-six-days stretch Sunday in Montreal.

"This is still an evaluation period and I think the concentration is more on our work ethic and evaluating the young guys and seeing who is ready," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer told the Miami Herald. "The positives are we get right into it and get to see all our guys. I'm comfortable with it."

DeBoer joined the Panthers after seven seasons with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.



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