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Penguins vs. Thrashers Game Preview

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Home: 3-5-0-6
Road: 5-3-1-11

WHEN: Nov. 13, 2010 - 7:00 pm   |   WHERE: Philips Arena
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Atlanta Thrashers
Home: 3-3-1-7

  Pittsburgh Penguins at Atlanta Thrashers 
Niclas Bergfors
F  -  #18
  4 Goals
  7 Assists
  11 Points
• The centerpiece of last season’s Ilya Kovalchuk trade, he tallied 21 goals and 44 points in 81 games split between the New Jersey Devils and Thrashers last season.

• Leads the team with a shooting percentage of 20 percent, scoring four goals on 20 shots.

• Has been a Penguins killer of sorts during his brief career, notching eight points (4G-4A) in six games versus Pittsburgh.
Andrew Ladd
F  -  #16
  6 Goals
  10 Assists
  16 Points
• In his first year with the Thrashers following an offseason trade from Chicago, he is tied for the team scoring lead with 16 points (6G-10A).

• The 6-foot-3, 205-pound specimen has emerged as a top power forward the past two seasons, scoring a combined 32 goals while appearing in all 82 contests both years.

• Won his first career Stanley Cup championship last season as a member of the Blackhawks, notching three goals and six points in 19 playoff contests.
Dustin Byfuglien
D  -  #33
  5 Goals
16 Points
• Moved back to defense by the Thrashers prior to the season after spending the past couple years as a grinding forward with the Blackhawks.

• Is tied with Minnesota’s Brent Burns for the NHL goal-scoring lead among defensemen with five.

• Was one of the breakout stars of last season’s postseason after scoring 11 goals and 16 points during Chicago’s march to the championship.
The Atlanta Thrashers feature a high-flying, youthful roster led by budding second-year stars Evander Kane and Niclas Bergfors, defensemen Zach Bogosian and Tobias Enstrom and 2010 first-round draft pick Alexander Burmistrov.

That core, combined with offseason additions Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Freddy Modin and Chris Mason, give the Thrashers the look of a team on the rise, and one that could become a factor later in the season depending on how quickly all the young players continue to develop.

Hoping to supplement its kids with the veteran leadership that would accelerate their development, the Thrashers took advantage of the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks’ payroll constraints by obtaining Byfuglien, Ladd, Eager and hard-nosed defender Brent Sopel over the summer.

The quartet has been everything the Thrashers could have hoped for, as Ladd and Byfuglien are tied for the team scoring lead with 16 points apiece, Eager has added a physical presence who can contribute the odd goal here and there and Sopel offers rugged defensive stability.

In goal, Mason has been a huge addition, appearing in 12 of the team’s first 16 games as Ondrej Pavelec has battled through a serious concussion that came as a result of his sudden collapse and momentary loss of consciousness Oct. 8. Mason has seen a ton of shots thus far, but he has responded well by posting a .903 save percentage despite seeing so much rubber thrown his way.

Offensively, Kane, who leads the team with seven goals, and Bergfors, who is coming off a 21-goal rookie campaign, are developing into building blocks for the Thrashers to build around during the post-Ilya Kovalchuk era. Bergfors is sneaky in the offensive zone while Kane combines tough, physical play to go with his soft hands.

On defense, Byfuglien (16 points) and the vastly underrated Tobias Enstrom (14 points) provide one of the best 1-2 offensive punches from defense in the National Hockey League. Enstrom, who is a huge minutes-eater for Atlanta, also plays very solid in his own zone, relying on solid positioning to defend.
  • Pittsburgh should feel very good heading into Saturday’s game, especially coming off of Friday’s 5-1 defeat of Tampa Bay. The Penguins have dominated the series against Atlanta recently, winning eight of the past nine games between the two teams, including three of four last season.
  • The Penguins’ stable of mobile, puck-moving defenseman have done a great job through the first 17 games supplementing the team’s offensive punch. Of the 51 goals the Penguins have scored, the team’s blueliners have factored into 38 (74.5 percent). Kris Letang is leading this charge with a league-leading 16 points, tied with Dustin Byfuglien and Nicklas Lidstrom for most among NHL defensemen.
  • Saturday marks the second half of back-to-back contests for the Penguins. This is the Penguins’ fourth set of back-to-backs. They will play a total of 17 sets this season. The Penguins own a 3-0 record this year in the second game.
  • Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury achieved a personal milestone on Friday night against the Lightning when he won his 150th career game. With the victory, Fleury became the 7th-youngest netminder in NHL history to record 150 wins at 25 years, 349 days. 
  • Since head coach Dan Bylsma took over on Feb. 15, 2009, the Penguins have ranked among the league leaders in shots on goal. They should continue to get plenty of shots against the Thrashers, who have allowed 40 or more shots in three of their past five games, including 55 to the Florida Panthers on Nov. 3.


Flower Power: During his media conference following Friday’s game, Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma strongly hinted that Marc-Andre Fleury will make a second straight start against Atlanta. If the Penguins want to continue along their winning ways, they are going to need more performances in goal like the one Fleury turned in against Tampa Bay.

Strong PK:
Pittsburgh’s penalty killing unit has carried the team throughout the first 17 games, ranking 8th in the NHL with an 86.7 percent success rate. The Penguins PK unit will be put to the test on Saturday, as Atlanta ices the league’s fourth-best power play. The Thrashers are clicking at a 25.4-percent clip on the man-advantage.

C Jordan Staal, broken right hand (up to 5 weeks)
C Bryan Little, concussion (day-to-day)
C Patrice Cormier, broken right foot (indefinitely)
Crosby (11) Kane (7)
Crosby/Letang (13) Enstrom (12)
Crosby (24) Ladd/Byfuglien (16)
Engelland (40) Eager (36)
Letang (+8) Eager (+3)
Crosby (5) Three tied (3)
Cooke (2)
Modin/Ladd (1)
Johnson (6-2-1) Mason (6-5-1)
Johnson (2.11) Pavelec (2.34)
Johnson (.927) Pavelec (.931)

Maxime Talbot - If the Penguins are going to return to the top of the Eastern Conference standings like we all expect them to, everyone is going to have to step up and provide secondary scoring behind Sidney Crosby. Maxime Talbot has supplied his share of offense the past two weeks, recording two goals and four points over his past six games, including a goal and an assist Friday night against Tampa Bay.
Nik Antropov - Atlanta sniper Nik Antropov got off to a slow start offensively for the second consecutive year, but just like last season, he appears to be breaking out of his funk during the season’s second month. After scoring just four points (2G-2A) the first 12 games, Antropov has notched three (2G-1A) over his past three games.

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