Friday, August 20, 2010

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Atlanta Thrashers

After teams win the Stanley Cup playing a certain style, other teams emulate that style in order to take the cherished chalice. When the Ducks were tough, other teams got tough. When the Wings played puck possession, other teams learned to play puck possession. When the Pens used homegrown top draft picks to power their way to a Cup, other teams tanked to build from within.

Well, Chicago won the Stanley Cup so Atlanta went out and took a chunk of the Hawks roster. While it won't get them a Stanley Cup, it certainly will help them maintain some semblance of respectability - especially in the wake of the Russian defection (Kovalchuk).

Familiar Foes: Borat will be back, as will Rich Peverley, Ron Hainsey and Tobias Enstrom. Evander Kane and Zac Bogosian should be tougher with last season's experience under their belts, and you don't want to mess with Kane. And you can't forget their punching bag Eric Boulton ...

N00bz: The return from the Kovy trade Johnny Oduya and Nic Bergfors, St. Louis stopper and beard-grower extraordinaire Chris Mason, and those Hawks: Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel. Prospects Patrice Cormier (Devils) and Akim Aliu (Hawks) should both get shots as well.

Last Year: Thursday, Nov. 12th, 5-3 Ranger loss; Monday, Dec. 14th, 3-2 Ranger shootout loss; Thursday, Jan. 7th, 2-1 Ranger shootout loss; Friday, March 12th, 5-2 Ranger win.

This Year: Wednesday, October 27th in MSG; Saturday, January 22nd at Atlanta; Friday, February 11th at Atlanta; Thursday, April 7th in MSG.

What They Mean To Blue: Of all of their acquisitions - Buff included - Mason is the biggest. Ondrej Pavelec may have a good future ahead of him but Mason can win games by himself right now. He singlehandedly carried St Louis to the playoffs two seasons ago and is one of the most underrated goaltenders around (and this season he will rock an awesome mask). All he will need is a little help from the offense. If Buff isn't a bust in his new city, if Alexander Burmistrov can make the leap from the O, if Aliu and Cormier contribute, if Kane avoids the sophomore jinx and if Bergfors keeps improving, their young talent could emulate the aforementioned Blues and edge into a lower-seeded playoff slot ... exactly where the Rangers are aiming. But that is a lotta ifs ...

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