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Dirty Birds taking flight

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

It’s hard not to view the Atlanta Thrashers with a bit of hairy eyeball.

A team that’s made the playoffs just once since entering the league in 1999-00 presently sits sixth in the Eastern Conference. Are we really supposed to believe Maxim Afinogenov and Rich Peverley are point-per-game players?

While a certain amount of suspicion is justified based purely on precedent, we’re here to tell you the Thrashers are for real.

It starts with goaltending, something Atlanta has received in spades from Ondrej Pavelec and Johan Hedberg. Up front, a major bounce-back year from Afinogenov and the stunning continued success of Peverley, a waiver-wire pickup nearly one year ago, have helped give the Thrashers the kind of offensive depth they’d previously only dreamed of.

On the back end, slick Swede Tobias Enstrom is tied for sixth in league scoring among defensemen, while big Pavel Kubina is plus-16 and providing a great example for the team’s future stud blueliner, sophomore Zach Bogosian.

This turnaround under coach John Anderson started halfway though last season and now the Thrashers are on track to reach a new threshold for success.

RK.

TEAM

LW

OVERALL

L10

THE SCOOP

1

4

18-5-6

6-2-2

Scored 14 goals in the two games Alex Ovechkin sat out for his suspension

2

1

19-7-5

5-3-2

Devin Setoguchi has been slowed by a leg injury, but the Sharks would love to get him going

3

2

19-7-1

6-3-1

Happy to get Johnny Oduya back on the blueline

4

6

18-7-3

7-2-1

With Kane, Toews and Keith all locked up, the real – and fun – question becomes, who gets moved to make cap room?

5

3

20-9-1

7-2-1

Evgeni Malkin has 55 points in 37 games without Sidney Crosby over the past three seasons

6

5

18-7-3

6-3-1

Flames are 11-2-3 on the road this season

7

8

15-9-5

7-2-1

With Milan Lucic out, banger Byron Bitz gets a chance to show his upside on the first line

8

10

16-8-2

5-4-1

A busy December stretch means Patrick Lalime gets another shot to prove he's a worthy backup to Ryan Miller

9

9

17-10-3

6-3-1

Anze Kopitar hasn't scored in 12 games; Dustin Brown hasn't found the net in 13

10

7

16-11-2

6-3-1

Jason Arnott (11 points in his past 10 games) and Martin Erat (nine in his past nine) both producing for the Preds

11

11

15-8-3

6-2-2

Coach John Anderson says rookie Evander Kane can expect more ice time thanks to his strong play

12

15

17-11-1

6-3-1

Incredible this team is doing so well when its leading scorer, Shane Doan, is on pace for 50 points

13

18

16-13-0

6-4-0

Can kick start their season by dominating an eight-game homestand that begins Thursday

14

14

13-8-8

5-3-2

Brenden Morrow getting it going with goals in five of his past six games

15

19

16-9-6

3-4-3

Rookie Ryan O'Reilly has hit the wall offensively, but fellow freshman Matt Duchene is just starting to heat up

16

22

12-10-5

6-3-1

Earned at least a point in five of their past six games

17

17

14-10-15

4-4-2

Jimmy Howard finally showing he's up to stopping NHL-caliber shots

18

16

14-10-4

5-4-1

Is Alex Kovalev coming alive? He has points in each of his past three games

19

20

14-14-1

4-6-0

Chris Higgins has done precious little to endear himself to his new team

20

26

13-12-3

6-2-2

Offense comes alive as Minnesota suddenly reels off five straight wins

21

12

11-9-8

3-5-2

Vincent Lecavalier received 16:09 of ice time against the Isles on Saturday - his second-lowest total of the season

22

27

11-11-7

4-5-1

On target for a mid-to-late December return, Rick DiPietro made a start with the American League's Bridgeport Sound Tigers

23

13

13-12-1

3-7-0

We'll give new coach Peter Laviolette a mulligan on his debut, an 8-2 loss to the Caps

24

25

8-13-7

5-3-2

Take away a terrible October and this team is a respectable 7-6-3

25

24

13-14-2

4-4-2

Friday night's 100th anniversary ceremony proved pageantry is now the only thing Montreal does way better than everybody else

26

28

11-13-5

3-4-3

Stephen Weiss goes off for six goals in his past four games

27

23

13-11-5

2-5-3

Just when you thought this franchise had turned the corner…

28

29

12-13-4

4-4-2

Battered and bruised, the Oilers currently have seven regulars spending significant time on the IR

29

21

10-13-6

4-3-3

I know credible hockey observers who thought this team could win the Cup this year

30

30

6-17-5

4-5-1

No better scenario for this team now than drafting high and adding another high-impact player to a core that includes 25-year-old Eric Staal and Cam Ward and a bunch of quality forward prospects

The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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