The Atlanta Thrashers knew they'd have a void on offense after the departure of top-line center Marc Savard. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen has made sure they haven't missed him much.
Coming off two straight shutouts, Lehtonen and the Thrashers welcome Savard back to Philips Arena when they meet the Boston Bruins on Wednesday.
Savard led the Thrashers with 69 assists in 2005-06 and was second on the team with 97 points. After three successful seasons in Atlanta - in which his goal and assist totals increased each year - Savard signed a four-year, $20 million contract with Boston, but has just one assist in two games so far.
After losing their season opener, the Thrashers (2-0-1) have won back-to-back games without allowing a goal. Atlanta routed Florida 6-0 on Saturday before avenging its first loss with a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay on Monday.
Lehtonen has turned aside all 56 shots faced, including 34 against Tampa Bay, to record back-to-back shutouts for the first time in his NHL career.
"It was just one of those days when everything seems to go your way," said Lehtonen, who matched his shutout total in 38 games last season. "I try to do everything the same way, and sometimes the post helps me and sometimes I'm just able to get the great save.
"That's the most fun you can get out there. It's not going to last forever."
Lehtonen leads the league with an 0.65 goals-against average and .976 save percentage. During an injury-shortened 2005-06 season, he was 1-2 with a 3.29 GAA and .894 save percentage in three starts against Boston.
The loss of Savard, though, has had an effect on Ilya Kovalchuk. A 52-goal scorer last season, Kovalchuk has one assist in three games. The top overall pick by Atlanta in 2001 had just a goal and two assists in four games last season versus Boston (1-1-0).
The Bruins allowed eight goals in a season-opening loss against Florida to start a five-game road trip, but bounced back with a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday.
"What really impressed the coaches is that the guys responded and did the things you have to do to win hockey games," said coach Dave Lewis after recording his first win with Boston. "It's just one game, but it's good to see that. ... I like winning close hockey games."
Patrice Bergeron, the team's leading scorer with 31 goals and 73 points last season, tallied his first goal of the new season early in the third period to snap a 2-2 tie.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara, Boston's other marquee free-agent signing, has recorded two assists in each of his first two games. Last season with Ottawa, Chara has 27 assists, including 12 on the power play, in 71 games.
He managed one assist in three games against Atlanta last season.
The Bruins will try to avoid losing three straight to the Thrashers for the first time since a four-game slide against them in the 2000-01 season.