NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Friday. October 5th
(All times eastern)
Washington Capitals (0-0-0) at Atlanta Thrashers (0-0-0), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Fresh off their first-ever postseason appearance, the
Atlanta Thrashers open up their 2007-08 season with a visit by the Washington
Capitals to Philips Arena in the season opener for both clubs.
Atlanta went 43-28-11 last season, good enough to win the Southeast Division
thanks to franchise highs in wins (43) and points (97). However, the club's
playoff appearance was a short one as they were quickly swept by the New York
Rangers in the opening round.
Offensively, the Thrashers are led by Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa.
Kovalchuk appeared in every game for the Thrashers last season, but saw his
production slip a bit. After producing 52 goals and 46 assists in 2005-06, he
only managed 42 goals and 34 assists last year.
Hossa, meanwhile, became the first Thrasher to eclipse the 100-point plateau,
and Atlanta brought in Todd White via free agency to help out on offense.
Atlanta will have to find away to replace Scott Mellanby, as the captain
retired following season's end.
Bobby Holik (11 goals, 18 assists) was named his successor at captain.
Also gone from last year's club are the likes of Keith Tkachuk, Eric Belanger
and Greg de Vries among other players.
Atlanta's defense leaves something to be desired, as the club lacks a true No.
1 defenseman. Alexei Zhitnik, acquired from Philadelphia at the trade deadline
last year, will guide the unit along with Niclas Havelid and Garnet Exelby.
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen will man the pipes for Atlanta and finished last
season 34-24-9 in 68 games with four shutouts and a 2.79 goals-against
The Thrashers will start the year without center Steve Rucchin, who is on
injured reserve due to post-concussion syndrome.
Washington, meanwhile, will try to take the next step in its rebuilding
process that is being led by the outstanding Alexander Ovechkin. The former
Calder Trophy winner posted 46 goals last season, and the Capitals got him
some help by adding Michael Nylander (26g, 57a) and Viktor Kozlov (25g, 26a)
in the offseason.
The Capitals signed Tom Poti to help their blue line, and the veteran will be
playing for his fourth club in nine years.
One thing that hasn't changed is Washington's goaltending situation. Olaf
Kolzig enters his 16th season with the Caps, and went 22-24 last year with a
3.00 GAA and .910 save percentage.
Atlanta won its first four meetings with Washington last year and held on to
win the season series 5-3, splitting four games at home. The Thrashers have
also won eight of their last 12 against the Capitals.
10/05 10:21:16 ET