Atlanta Thrashers preview

The Atlanta Thrashers are in a tough situation.

They have one of the best and most exciting goal-scorers in the game. But they can’t get the fans to watch. Missing the playoffs every year except one doesn’t help either.

Forwards: At forward you have Ilya Kovalchuk and not much else. Kovalchuk has scored at least 41 goals in each of the last four seasons, twice hitting the 50-goal mark, despite getting all the attention from other teams. He is also durable, as he hasn’t missed more than four games a season in five years.

Jason Williams will be expected to help shoulder some of the offensive burden. Last season, he had 36 points, but he only played in 43 games. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be a boon to this team.

There’s also Slava Kozlov, who is tough to figure out. He’ll get 80 points one season, and follow it up with 40 the next. So you never know what Kozlov you’re getting.

Defence: The Thrashers have made an effort to bolster their blue line by trading for Mathieu Schneider. Schneider will be expected to lead the team on the ice and in the dressing room. He can help newer players, such as third overall pick Zach Bogosian.

Ron Hainsey is another nice addition to the blue line. He can also be used on the powerplay, as attested by his 15 powerplay assists with Columbus last season.

Goaltending: Kari Lehtonen was expected to be the goalie of the future for this team, but has battled injuries. He has only started more than 45 games once, and his goals against hovers around 3.00. He’s still young, so there might be a chance he’ll turn into a quality starter, but this team won’t go anywhere without him improving.

Pool picks: Take a chance on Mathieu Schneider. He’ll be the main guy on the blueline in Atlanta, and will be able to rack up the points. Stay away from: Slava Kozlov. He used to be a 70 points a season guy, but he slipped down to 41 points. This team will have trouble scoring, so don’t expect many more big seasons out of him.

Miscellaneous: Atlanta is $11 million under the cap, so if they are in a playoff position near the trade deadline, they might be willing to make a big trade, someone to help Ilya Kovalchuk score goals. But if they are out of the playodd race, it might be difficult to make trades so they don’t go too far under the cap.

Expected finish: Fourth in the Southeast division, 12th in the Eastern conference.

Overall: Atlanta will help a harder time scoring since Marian Hossa isn’t on the team anymore. Hossa is also a good penalty killer, so that will hurt the team as well. They’ll be leaning on Ilya Kovalchuk a lot more, but it won’t be enough to get them into the playoffs.

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