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Penguins vs. Thrashers Game Preview

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Home: 7-5-1-15
Road: 9-3-1-19

WHEN: Dec. 1, 2010 - 7:00 pm   |   WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Atlanta Thrashers
Home: 8-5-1-17

  Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Atlanta Thrashers 
Alexander Burmistrov
F  -  #8
  3 Goals
  7 Assists
  10 Points
• The rookie forward, who turned 19 on Oct. 21, made Atlanta’s roster out of training camp after the Thrashers selected him No. 8 overall in June’s NHL Entry Draft.
• The skilled center, praised for his speed, vision and creativity, owns a plus-five rating and has 10 points (3G-7A) through 25 games.
• The Kazan, Russia native spent the 2009-10 season with the Barrie Colts of the OHL after playing one game in the KHL.
Evander Kane
F  -  #9
  9 Goals
  7 Assists
  16 Points
• The Thrashers selected him No. 4 overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft after he posted 96 points (48G-48A) through 61 games in his final season of juniors with the Vancouver Giants (WHL).
• The sophomore NHLer ranks second on the team with nine goals through 25 games, after scoring 14 through 66 contests in his rookie season.
• The tough-as-nails forward, who got into a memorable scrap with Matt Cooke last season, recorded his first fighting major of the 2010-11 campaign on Saturday with Boston’s Matt Hunwick.
Tobias Enstrom
D  -  #39
  3 goals
  18 assists
  21 points
• Is the team’s smallest player at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds but eats up the most minutes, averaging a team-leading 24:30 of ice time each game while enjoying a five-game point streak (1G-5A).
• Was a member of Team Sweden at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in February alongside teammate Johnny Oduya.
• Has 13 points (2G-11A) on the power play, tied with defensive partner Byfulgien for the team lead – his 11 assists with the man-advantage are third in the league and pace all NHL defensemen.
What happens when two red-hot teams collide? We’ll find out on Thursday when the Penguins (currently on a seven-game winning streak) host the Atlanta Thrashers (currently on a six-game winning streak) at CONSOL Energy Center for what should be an early Christmas present for hockey fans.

Thrashers GM Rick Dudley orchestrated a plethora of off-season moves to strengthen the team, most notably a huge trade that brought Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfulgien, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager to the South from the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup-winning roster. It may be the best investment Dudley’s ever made.

Ladd, 24, and Byfulgien, 25, have wasted no time establishing themselves as leaders on their new squad. Ladd was named team captain on Nov. 18, while Byfulgien was named an alternate. The two have jumpstarted the offense, with blueliner Byfulgien’s 27 points (10G-17A) and Ladd’s 25 points (8G-17A) ranking 1-2 in team scoring. Forwards Alexander Burmistrov, Evander Kane, Niclas Bergfors, Bryan Little and Anthony Stewart, who all are 25 years old or younger as well, round out the team’s youthful offensive core.

Byfulgien, who has spent most of his career at forward, and Tobias Enstrom are the team’s top defensive pair. The two provide a significant offensive punch while shutting down opposing teams’ top lines. Their fantastic play has somewhat overshadowed the solid contributions of 20-year-old Zach Bogosian, Atlanta’s No. 3 overall selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Bogosian and defensive partner Johnny Oduya have been settling into a rhythm on the ice and round out the top four.

The Thrashers’ goaltending situation is sitting pretty, with 23-year-old Ondrej Pavelec proving that he is capable of stealing games. During Atlanta’s six-game winning streak, the young goaltender has allowed just five goals and has recorded two shutouts. It helps that he has veteran goaltender Chris Mason, another solid off-season acquisition by Dudley, by his side in the locker room.
  • Penguins captain Sidney Crosby’s stellar play has earned him the NHL’s ‘First Star’ for the month of November. He led all players last month with 26 points (12G-14A) in 14 games (taking first place in the NHL scoring race) and is currently riding a 13-game point streak, the longest in the league this season. Crosby has multiple-point efforts in eight of those contests. Over 26 total games-played, Crosby has 41 points (18G-23A).
  • Crosby isn’t the only Penguin to have an outstanding November. Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has started nine of the past 10 games, going on an 8-0-1 unbeaten tear with a 1.64 goals-against average and .944 save percentage over that stretch. His nine-game unbeaten streak is tied for the third longest of his career.
  • The Penguins’ 10-3-1 mark in November matches their best mark for that month, set in 1995. Pittsburgh reached the Eastern Conference Finals that season, falling to Florida in seven games. They killed 50-of-52 power plays in November.
  • The Penguins penalty kill is the best in the NHL, having gone nine consecutive games (and 13 of their past 15) without surrendering an opposition power-play goal, tying a franchise record set from March 29-April 6, 1998.. The team is on a current stretch of 32 straight kills and has killed off 95-of-105 opposition power plays for a 90.4 percent success rate. Over their recent unbeaten streak, Pittsburgh has killed 57-of-59 penalties (96.6 percent).


Contain Byfulgien and Enstrom: Normally we say this about an opposing team’s top forward line, but this isn’t your run-of-the-mill defensive pairing. Byfuglien and Enstrom have combined for 48 points—Byfulgien leads both the team and all NHL defensemen with 27 points (10G-17A) while Enstrom is third on the team and fourth among NHL blueliners with 21 points (3G-18A). Not to mention that they’ve figured in 26 of the team’s 70 power-play goals. The Penguins will have their hands full shutting down those two.

Crash the Net and Create Traffic:
When a goalie is playing like Ondrej Pavelec has been over the past six games, it’s going to take some serious pressure to cool him down. The Penguins need to keep throwing the puck at the net and crowding bodies into the slot in front of the 6-foot-3, 220-pound netminder—no pretty goals necessary here.

C Jordan Staal, broken right hand (up to  two weeks)
F Mike Comrie, lower-body (3)
F Arron Asham, illness (1)
RW Freddy Modin, ribs (day-to-day)
Crosby (18) Byfulgien (10)
Crosby (23) Enstrom (18)
Crosby (41) Byfulgien (27)
Engelland (55) Eager (44)
Letang (+12) Six tied at...+5
Crosby (7) Four tied at...4
Cooke (2)
Ladd (2)
Johnson (7-2-1) Pavelec (7-4-2)
Johnson (2.00) Pavelec (1.65)
Johnson (.931) Pavelec (.948)

Zbynek Michalek - Michalek is one of those guys who plays so fundamentally sound that you almost don’t notice him. After missing nine of the team’s first 12 games, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound defenseman has rounded back into top form with his comfort level looking better than ever. Michalek has been a mainstay on Pittsburgh’s streaking penalty kill, averaging 3:24 of shorthanded ice time each game and recording 43 blocked shots (second on the team) while helping shut down the opposition’s power play—32 consecutive times.
Dustin Byfulgien - Can anybody stop ‘Big Buff’ right now? He scored the game-tying goal against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, then recorded the primary assist on Anthony Stewart’s wraparound winner in Atlanta’s 3-2 overtime win. This came after he recorded four points (1G-3A) in a 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Sunday en route to being named both the NHL’s Second Star of the Week and the NHL’s ‘Third Star’ for the month of November (behind Crosby). He has vaulted to the top of the scoring race among NHL defensemen with 27 points (10G-17A), with five of his nine goals being game-winners.

 Sidney Crosby Named NHL 'First Star' for November      
 Lovejoy Reads to Sixth-Grade Students          
 Penguins Report: Practice 12/1/10      
 Crosby Named Maclean's Newsmaker of the Year
Civic Arena Seats on Sale to General Public  
Penguins Team Up With U.S. Marine Corps To Hold Holiday Toy Drive at Games on Dec. 6 and 8   

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Author: Michelle Crechiolo

Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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