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Penguins vs. Thrashers Game Preview

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Overall:
48-25-8-104
Home: 25-14-2-52
Road: 23-11-6-52

WHEN: April 10, 2011 - 3:00 pm   |   WHERE: Philips Arena
WATCH:
ROOT SPORTS  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Atlanta Thrashers
Overall:
34-35-12-80
Home: 17-16-7-41
Road:
17-19-5-39

  Pittsburgh Penguins at Atlanta Thrashers 
 
      
Andrew Ladd
C  -  #16
  28 Goals
  30 Assists
  58 Points
• Is having a career year with the Thrashers, as he paces the squad with a career-high 28 goals and 58 points and leads all Atlanta forwards with an average of 20:04 minutes per game.

• Was named the eighth captain in Thrashers history on Nov. 18 after being acquired from Chicago on July 1 after winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks that June.

• The 25-year-old forward, drafted No. 4 overall by Carolina in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, also won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006.
 
Evander Kane
LW  -  #9
  19 Goals
  24 Assists
  43 Points
• The 6-foot-2, 195-pound specimen leads the Thrashers with 153 hits and is second with 228 shots.

• The sophomore NHLer’s 19 tallies put him third on the Thrashers goal-scoring chart behind Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfulgien.

• 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).
 
Dustin Byfulgien
D  -  #33
  20 goals
  33 assists
  53 points
• Has set a new Thrashers franchise record for points by a defenseman with 53, while his 20 goals leads all NHL blueliners.

• Has six game-winning tallies on the season, leaving him one shy of the NHL record for defensemen.

• The 6-foot-5, 265-pound blueliner, who was moved to defense by the Thrashers prior to the season after spending the past couple of years as a power forward with the Blackhawks, ranks second in the NHL with 342 shots (which is a new Atlanta franchise record).
Atlanta put forth a stellar effort over the first half of the season. After acquiring Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfulgien from Chicago – the defending Stanley Cup champions – on the first day of free agency, the revitalized Thrashers started the 2010-11 campaign off with a bang.

The Thrashers kept themselves at or near the top of the Southeast Division through mid-January, going on a 10-2 run at one point and stringing together a franchise-record six-consecutive wins in November, led by the outstanding play of 23-year-old goalie Ondrej Pavelec between the pipes – who started all six of those contests – and the offensive contributions from their mobile blueliners.

But the Thrashers’ hopes at making the playoffs for the second time since joining the league as an expansion team in 1999 came to a halt when Atlanta went on a 3-10-4 skid from Jan. 20 to Feb. 25. The Thrashers just couldn’t recover from that stretch of games in a tight playoff race out East.

They did, however, get a boost with the acquisitions of forward Blake Wheeler and defenseman Mark Stuart from Boston in exchange for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik . Wheeler has been producing at a steady clip – recording 17 points (7G-10A) in the 22 contests since arriving in Atlanta – while Stuart has been providing steady leadership, wearing an “A” in the absence of the injured Tobias Enstrom.

The Thrashers played the spoiler role when they took on the New York Rangers on April 7, earning an inspirational 3-0 shutout victory over the Blueshirts. However, Atlanta came out flat the following night against Carolina – the team battling with the Rangers for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot – losing by a score of 6-1.

The Thrashers’ dangerously talented crew of blueliners still carries the squad, as their 167 points (44G-123A) ranks second behind only Detroit. Byfulgien has been having a career year for the Thrashers – his 20 goals ranks first among NHL blueliners, his 53 points mark a new personal best and he's second in the league with 342 shots. Atlanta also ranks second in the league with 820 takeaways, led by Byfulgien’s 85 – which leads the Eastern Conference.

However, they’ve been struggling on defense without Enstrom, who’s sat out the last three games with an upper-body injury. Enstrom plays huge, eating up monster minutes with an average of 23:51 of ice time per game, and packs quite an offensive punch, as he ranks third in team scoring with 51 points and first with 41 assists.
  • The Penguins enter the final day of the regular season locked into home-ice advantage for the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. A win Sunday by the Penguins and any type of Philadelphia loss to the NY Islanders April 9 will give Pittsburgh the Atlantic Division crown and the No. 2 seed. Pittsburgh can also clinch the division title if Philadelphia loses outright to the Islanders and the Penguins earn at least a point. If Philadelphia defeats the Islanders, the Penguins are automatically locked into the No. 4 seed.
  • Should the Penguins earn the No. 2 seed, their possible opponents include the Buffalo Sabres or Montreal Canadiens. If Pittsburgh stays in the No. 4 slot, they will open against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
  • If the Penguins face Tampa Bay, it will be the first-ever postseason meeting between the teams. Should the Penguins and Canadiens meet, it would mark the second straight season the two teams squared off against one another. Montreal defeated the Penguins in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring. The Penguins have faced both the Canadiens and Sabres twice previously in the playoffs. They are 2-0 against Buffalo (1979 Preliminary Round, 2-1; 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals, 4-3). Pittsburgh is 0-2 all-time in series vs. Montreal (1998 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, 4-2; 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, 4-3).
  • With a win Sunday, the Penguins would earn the second-most points in franchise history (106) behind the 119 earned in 1992-93 when the team won its only Presidents’ Trophy as regular-season champion. A win today would be the Penguins’ 49th of the season, equaling the 1995-96 squad for second-most in franchise history (56, 1992-93).
  • A win Sunday by the Penguins would be the team’s 24th road victory of the season, tying the franchise record set in ’92-93.
  • With a 3-0 record against the Thrashers entering Sunday’s game, the Penguins are looking to sweep Atlanta for the second time in three seasons and the fifth time in the history of the season series (Pittsburgh went 4-0 against Atlanta each year from 1999-2000 through 2001-02 and also in 2008-09).
  • The Penguins have lost the season series to Atlanta just once in 11 seasons (1-3 in 2005-06). Pittsburgh is 11-1 in its past 12 games against Atlanta. Included in that record is a 4-1 mark at Philips Arena.

 

      
Don’t Trade Chances: Teams who are out of postseason contention can sometimes play a more wide-open game than normal. They’re willing to try and make plays they wouldn’t usually attempt, one, since they have nothing to lose, and two, in hopes of testing new methods and systems that might work for them down the road. The Penguins can’t get caught up in going chance-for-chance with a team like the Thrashers, who are officially eliminated from the postseason and likes to get all five skaters involved in the play. Pittsburgh needs to build momentum going into the playoffs by playing their own style.

Be Ready For Their Rebound:
After putting forth a stellar performance on April 7 against the New York Rangers – playing spoiler role to the Blueshirts’ playoff hopes with a 3-0 whitewashing – the Thrashers came out flat the next day against Carolina and fell by a score of 6-1. Although Sunday marks the Thrashers’ last game until next season, they’ll certainly be looking to rebound from an emphatic loss like that one and will be playing to end their season on a good note with pride.
F Sidney Crosby, concussion (IR)
F Dustin Jeffrey, torn ACL (will miss remainder of season)
F Nick Johnson, concussion (IR)
F Evgeni Malkin, torn ACL and torn MCL (will miss remainder of season)
Tobias Enstrom, upper body (day-to-day)
Radek Dvorak, upper body (day-to-day)
Patrice Cormier, upper body (indefinitely)
Freddy Meyer, upper body (indefinitely)
Jim Slater, concussion (indefinitely)
 
 
 
 
G
Crosby (32) Ladd (28)
A
Letang (42) Enstrom (41)
PTS
Crosby (66) Ladd (58)
PIM
Cooke (129) Byfulgien (93)
+/-
Crosby (+20) Little (+12)
PP
Crosby (10) Ladd/Byfulgien (8)
SH
Dupuis (4)
Ladd/Little (2)
W/L
Fleury (36-20-5)
Pavelec (21-23-9)
GAA
Fleury (2.32) Pavelec (2.73)
SVP
Fleury (.918) Pavelec (.914)

Michael Rupp - Rupp was the driving force in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Islanders on Friday, beginning with scoring the Penguins’ first goal with just under 10 minutes left in the first period. He then set a perfect screen in front of Islanders goalie Al Montoya on the Penguins’ second goal, allowing Zbynek Michalek to laser a shot into the back of the net with Montoya none the wiser. Rupp finished by feeding Mark Letestu on a two-on-one break for Pittsburgh’s third tally, which would prove crucial as the Islanders tied the game with just 35 seconds left in regulation. Rupp now has three points in his last two games, as he added an assist in the Penguins’ 4-2 win over New Jersey on Tuesday.
 
Blake Wheeler - Wheeler earned an assist on the Thrashers’ only goal in a 6-1 loss to Carolina on Friday to extend his scoring streak to three games, notching four points (2G-2A) over that span. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound winger has scored 17 points (7G-10A) in 22 games since being acquired from Boston on Feb. 18 with defenseman Mark Stuart in exchange for Rich Peverley. Wheeler has notched four multiple-point games since becoming a Thrasher, including a two-goal effort on April 5 versus Nashville where he fired a season-high nine pucks on goal. Wheeler, 24, has 44 points (18G-26A) on the season.
 
 
 
 

Penguins Report: Practice 4/9/11 
Notebook: Pens Clinch Home-Ice 
Aftermath: Penguins 4, Islanders 3 SO 
Pens Fans Show Their Support in Long Island 
Top U.S. High School Hockey Players To Compete In "America’s Showcase" Tournament April 13-17, Presented by 84 Lumber 
Penguins Cup Championships To Be Shown on ROOT SPORTS April 11 
Bylsma For Coach of the Year 
Fleury For NHL MVP 

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WHEN: April 10, 2011 - 3:00 pm
WHERE: Philips Arena
WATCH: ROOT SPORTS
LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM



SCOUTING REPORT

Atlanta put forth a stellar effort over the first half of the season. After acquiring Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfulgien from Chicago – the defending Stanley Cup champions – on the first day of free agency, the revitalized Thrashers started the 2010-11 campaign off with a bang.

The Thrashers kept themselves at or near the top of the Southeast Division through mid-January, going on a 10-2 run at one point and stringing together a franchise-record six-consecutive wins in November, led by the outstanding play of 23-year-old goalie Ondrej Pavelec between the pipes – who started all six of those contests – and the offensive contributions from their mobile blueliners.

But the Thrashers' hopes at making the playoffs for the second time since joining the league as an expansion team in 1999 came to a halt when Atlanta went on a 3-10-4 skid from Jan. 20 to Feb. 25. The Thrashers just couldn't recover from that stretch of games in a tight playoff race out East.

They did, however, get a boost with the acquisitions of forward Blake Wheeler and defenseman Mark Stuart from Boston in exchange for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik . Wheeler has been producing at a steady clip – recording 17 points (7G-10A) in the 22 contests since arriving in Atlanta – while Stuart has been providing steady leadership, wearing an “A” in the absence of the injured Tobias Enstrom.

The Thrashers played the spoiler role when they took on the New York Rangers on April 7, earning an inspirational 3-0 shutout victory over the Blueshirts. However, Atlanta came out flat the following night against Carolina – the team battling with the Rangers for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot – losing by a score of 6-1.

The Thrashers' dangerously talented crew of blueliners still carries the squad, as their 167 points (44G-123A) ranks second behind only Detroit. Byfulgien has been having a career year for the Thrashers – his 20 goals ranks first among NHL blueliners, his 53 points mark a new personal best and he's second in the league with 342 shots. Atlanta also ranks second in the league with 820 takeaways, led by Byfulgien's 85 – which leads the Eastern Conference.

However, they've been struggling on defense without Enstrom, who's sat out the last three games with an upper-body injury. Enstrom plays huge, eating up monster minutes with an average of 23:51 of ice time per game, and packs quite an offensive punch, as he ranks third in team scoring with 51 points and first with 41 assists.


INTERESTING STATS

* The Penguins enter the final day of the regular season locked into home-ice advantage for the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. A win Sunday by the Penguins and any type of Philadelphia loss to the NY Islanders April 9 will give Pittsburgh the Atlantic Division crown and the No. 2 seed. Pittsburgh can also clinch the division title if Philadelphia loses outright to the Islanders and the Penguins earn at least a point. If Philadelphia defeats the Islanders, the Penguins are automatically locked into the No. 4 seed.

* Should the Penguins earn the No. 2 seed, their possible opponents include the Buffalo Sabres or Montreal Canadiens. If Pittsburgh stays in the No. 4 slot, they will open against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

* If the Penguins face Tampa Bay, it will be the first-ever postseason meeting between the teams. Should the Penguins and Canadiens meet, it would mark the second straight season the two teams squared off against one another. Montreal defeated the Penguins in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring. The Penguins have faced both the Canadiens and Sabres twice previously in the playoffs. They are 2-0 against Buffalo (1979 Preliminary Round, 2-1; 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals, 4-3). Pittsburgh is 0-2 all-time in series vs. Montreal (1998 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, 4-2; 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, 4-3).

* With a win Sunday, the Penguins would earn the second-most points in franchise history (106) behind the 119 earned in 1992-93 when the team won its only Presidents' Trophy as regular-season champion. A win today would be the Penguins' 49th of the season, equaling the 1995-96 squad for second-most in franchise history (56, 1992-93).

* A win Sunday by the Penguins would be the team's 24th road victory of the season, tying the franchise record set in '92-93.

* With a 3-0 record against the Thrashers entering Sunday's game, the Penguins are looking to sweep Atlanta for the second time in three seasons and the fifth time in the history of the season series (Pittsburgh went 4-0 against Atlanta each year from 1999-2000 through 2001-02 and also in 2008-09).

* The Penguins have lost the season series to Atlanta just once in 11 seasons (1-3 in 2005-06). Pittsburgh is 11-1 in its past 12 games against Atlanta. Included in that record is a 4-1 mark at Philips Arena.


KEYS TO THE GAME

Don't Trade Chances: Teams who are out of postseason contention can sometimes play a more wide-open game than normal. They're willing to try and make plays they wouldn't usually attempt, one, since they have nothing to lose, and two, in hopes of testing new methods and systems that might work for them down the road. The Penguins can't get caught up in going chance-for-chance with a team like the Thrashers, who are officially eliminated from the postseason and likes to get all five skaters involved in the play. Pittsburgh needs to build momentum going into the playoffs by playing their own style.

Be Ready For Their Rebound: After putting forth a stellar performance on April 7 against the New York Rangers – playing spoiler role to the Blueshirts' playoff hopes with a 3-0 whitewashing – the Thrashers came out flat the next day against Carolina and fell by a score of 6-1. Although Sunday marks the Thrashers' last game until next season, they'll certainly be looking to rebound from an emphatic loss like that one and will be playing to end their season on a good note with pride.


WHO'S HOT

Michael Rupp - Rupp was the driving force in Pittsburgh's 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Islanders on Friday, beginning with scoring the Penguins' first goal with just under 10 minutes left in the first period. He then set a perfect screen in front of Islanders goalie Al Montoya on the Penguins' second goal, allowing Zbynek Michalek to laser a shot into the back of the net with Montoya none the wiser. Rupp finished by feeding Mark Letestu on a two-on-one break for Pittsburgh's third tally, which would prove crucial as the Islanders tied the game with just 35 seconds left in regulation. Rupp now has three points in his last two games, as he added an assist in the Penguins' 4-2 win over New Jersey on Tuesday.

Blake Wheeler - Wheeler earned an assist on the Thrashers' only goal in a 6-1 loss to Carolina on Friday to extend his scoring streak to three games, notching four points (2G-2A) over that span. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound winger has scored 17 points (7G-10A) in 22 games since being acquired from Boston on Feb. 18 with defenseman Mark Stuart in exchange for Rich Peverley. Wheeler has notched four multiple-point games since becoming a Thrasher, including a two-goal effort on April 5 versus Nashville where he fired a season-high nine pucks on goal. Wheeler, 24, has 44 points (18G-26A) on the season.



Author: Michelle Crechiolo
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