Sunday, September 30, 2007

Training camp review done

Just a heads up that my training camp review is now up at Hockey's Future.

Note that Mark Popovic and Colin Stuart are not discussed as they no longer qualify as prospects per our criteria. Good thing, because this sucker might have been even longer!

It's mostly a collection of quotes gathered along the way, that I hope shed light. Some good stuff in there like Tobias Enstrom's outlook on size -- "Anyone can do it," as well as which fellow Swede he's going to move in with.

Sterling revealed that he found out at prospect camp that he'd probably be on a line with Kovalchuk and White.

Next up will be a Wolves preview. They start the day after the Thrashers, on Oct. 6. There will be some interesting stuff from Pavelec in that one.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Thrashers vs. Panthers 9-28-07

Well, this actually feels more like a regular-season game. Familiar names in the line-up, fewer breakdowns. The intensity isn't quite there yet though. And the crowd, while present, is pretty passive.

Hossa - Holik - Kozlov
Kovalchuk - Little - Sterling
Perrin - Slater - Dupuis
Thorburn (rotates with Larsen out , Little was there once)- Boulton

Seven D are dressed, so the pairings are pretty random. The low ice time will make up for the five D they had the other night.

Hossa is a one-man PK unit. He's everywhere. Little was out on the PK with him at least once, they are testing him in all situations. Sterling with a good take-away wraparound chance.

2nd intermission: The most interesting thing I (finally) noticed is a rise in the number of shields being worn by this year's squad. Perrin, Popovic, Sterling, Enstrom, and Little are all wearing shields, joining McCarthy, Dupuis, and most surprisingly -- Exelby. Havelid isn't wearing a shield, and has a cut under his eye to prove it.

I thought maybe Sterling would get credit for the goal that was scored, he was standing in front of Vokoun. He at least screened him really well.

Enstrom stayed out for all but :16 seconds of one of the power plays.

This combination of players had a rough time clearing the zone: 5-41-17-44-27.

After seeing Popovic's play tonight, I'd say McCarthy can rest a little easier. He hasn't been strong on the puck, and is making questionable decisions.
Thus ends my in-game blogging for the preseason. Now that the frenzy of preseason is over, I won't be updating as often, which is a good thing because I have some stories to write!

Remembering Coburn in 2005

This morning I remembered talking to Braydon Coburn in December 2005 -- he had made the Thrashers roster out of camp, was told to find a place to live, and then as soon as he did he was quickly assigned to Chicago. A normally pretty confident, happy-go-lucky kid, the 20-year-old wasn't doing well mentally right then. Here's an excerpt of what I wrote at the time.

This fall,

Coburn came to Thrashers training camp in great shape, and was expected to stick, but after nine games it was clear that this transition wasn't going to be seamless. He wasn’t yet ready.

Coburn recognized that his play in Atlanta wasn’t up to snuff.

“I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped to,” he said last night following a 3-1 loss to the Milwaukee Admirals. “I was kind of (pause)…a little bit tentative at times I think up there. I didn’t totally feel comfortable, but I think the games I got a little bit more ice time I felt a little bit more comfortable and got into my game better. I didn’t play a lot, which I’ve got to learn to do early on here and grow into my game.”

Assigned to the farm club on Oct. 26, the Thrashers want him to keep working on his game, get lots of ice time, and confidence. Though he recognized his problems, it was still painful when the gauntlet fell.

“I was disappointed,” he said. “My goal coming into camp was to be in Atlanta all year. I was there for camp and the first part of the season and I thought I was getting closer. But I’ll do the best with what I’ve been given right now."

What he doesn’t say, but is evident in his manner both on and off the ice, is that he is frustrated. Living in a hotel for five weeks is never easy, and it doesn’t get easier when things aren’t going well on the ice.

The point here really makes itself, so I won't belabor it. Making the right decision on Bryan Little now is extremely important to avoid setbacks later.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

O'Neill will go to Maine instead

Thrashers draftee Will O'Neill was going to attend UNH, but due to academic and conditioning issues following a knee injury, was dropped before he started there. He'll head off to Maine next fall instead. Right now he's still in the USHL with Omaha.

O'Neill is about as off the radar as you can get as an NHL prospect, but it's a somewhat juicy story, so here you go.

Bangor Daily News (Maine paper)
UNH blogger (an extreme partisan)

Gladiators posts ahead

We're about a week away from the opening of training camp for the Gwinnett Gladiators, who are of course the AA affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers. They play right near the Thrashers practice facility out in the burbs, for those of you not familiar with the city. Anyway, during hockey season there will be a fair number of blog posts with news about the team and the Thrashers prospects assigned there. Gladiator news was a significant part of the reason I created the blog, actually. I end up with lots of news about them just from being around that otherwise goes unreported, and since it doesn't inconvenience me to type it up, why not do it?

Here are some items kicking around.

I'm looking forward to the visual image of goaltenders Craig Kowalski and Dan Turple together. I interviewed K-Wal a few years ago, and having stood next to him, I'd say his listing of 5'8 is probably a bit generous. Turple is a solid 6'6 though, so there's almost a foot difference there. Sometimes last season with Dave Caruso and Turple, I had to look at the mask to tell who was in net because they were of somewhat similar height, but that won't be a problem this year for sure. K-Wal and Turps are also pretty different in personality too. K-Wal reminds me a lot of Pasi Nurminen, visually and temperament wise (remember the comparisons to Cartman). And Turps is pretty low-key. They are truly the odd couple.

Here's a link to the Q&A I did with K-Wal in 2004. I loved his answer to the rookie question. Had a good laugh about that one.

Next item, Dani Ellis will be the team's head athletic trainer this year. She served as assistant trainer last year under the departed Meg Guthrie. Dani was the natural choice because there's a height limit for the support staff of the Glads -- I kid! I kid!

There will be a significant player signing announced within the next week, which should solidify the team at least in the short run.

The team opens camp (on-ice) on Oct. 5 at the IceForum (at 12:10), and I do recommend attending the first day -- as you never know who might suit up. That's all I want to say about that for now.

And lastly, in what has to be a sign of the coming apocalypse, former ECHL referee David Banfield has been hired by the NHL. Those who don't know the name -- I'm sure you soon will. Maybe you'll even thank me for the warning.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Random post-game notes

I don't usually post after games, but tonight I will. Expect some cuts to the roster tomorrow as the team heads out on a road game. Jordan LaVallee won't be one of them though, he's playing in FLA. Ondrej Pavelec certainly seems probable, given that Kari Lehtonen will play.

I didn't get to talk to one of the players I wanted to after the game because he changed and ran out so quickly, but I did talk to one of the Zamboni drivers, who very kindly walked me to the MARTA station. I'm sure he didn't know he would be making a blog appearance tonight. Anyway, I asked how the ice was, and he said much better tonight than Saturday night. They had just put it in on Thursday so it hadn't had time to really set up then. Now it has, and it's in regular-season shape he said. You could tell that was true because many fewer players fell this game. He also showed me where the guy fell to his death after a WWE event at the arena a couple weeks ago. I had been curious about that, so I actually was interested. He jumped off the walkway that goes from Centennial garage to the arena underneath the road, and then fell from lower down right where you go into MARTA at ground level.

My missed player tonight made me think of Mike Stathopoulos, the fastest-dressing player I've ever encountered. Stats played for the Gladiators a couple years ago. The Gwinnett arena is not quite as big as Philips, so we usually walk down the stairs to Coach Pyle's office after games (down three levels). Stats would be showered and walking to his car by the time we got down there, which had to be like three minutes. I don't know how he even got wet in the shower in that amount of time. He played for an opposing team the next year -- and it got even more unbelievable. He would be showered, changed, and have his bag packed and on his shoulder headed out to the bus by the time arrived. He was a fast skater, so maybe he just did everything in life really fast, I don't know. But he has definitely set the standard for how to make a quick escape.

Thrashers vs. Predators, take 2

First, a shoutout to some interesting visitors in the last day:

Fargo, North Dakota
Barcelona, Spain
The Philippines (I overdosed on fresh pineapple there, it was great)
South Jordan, Utah
Olathe, Kansas

Thanks for stopping by!

Now to the game, a rematch against Nashville. I had been planning to write an article on the rookies who may make Nashville's roster, but then they went and sent everyone down this weekend. I guess Rich Peverley had to get back for his bobblehead night in Milwaukee.

Only Koistinen and Klein are left, and Klein is injured. We'll see if Koistinen even plays tonight.

Many of the players know each other very well, from the Chicago vs. Milwaukee rivalry. So if there's anything extra going on, it's probably from the heart.

1st intermission: What an empty building. But then what do you expect on a Tuesday night during preseason at 7:00?

I still do not understand why Colin Stuart is being played on a scoring line. He's not at all suited to it. He's a good skater and is defensive minded, but not physical. That spells checking line and only checking line. The mix of Stuart and Little doesn't work either because Little is used to being the most defensive-oriented guy on his line, as a center, so Stuart and Little are both trying to stay back, leaving only Ilya Kovalchuk to play offense. It just doesn't work. Then one time there was a rush, Little got between Kovalchuk and the net and was hit by the shot.

Enstrom continues to look good. He's so dynamic. On one play, he came off the bench to hold the puck in the zone and skated it all the way in for a chance. He took a hit behind the net earlier, but just bounced out.

Koistinen looks good too on Nashville's blue line.

I'm not a fan of Kwiatkowski's positioning in the zone or on the breakout.

2nd intermission: Ah, the waning looks at Bryan Little until later in the season. He just looks a bit timid out there. OK, maybe more than a bit. If you said 'pick out the 19-year-old', people would probably guess correctly. He played a shift with the fourth line once this period.

LaVallee hasn't gotten a ton of ice time, but he's done something good each shift, either a clear, a hit, or advancing the puck. Up and down the ice, a simple but effective game. He was my darkhorse in my training camp preview, and I'm sticking by that pick.

De Vries is a nice measuring stick as an opponent, since we know his abilities well. He had a takeaway from Stuart along the boards, and pushed Little to the ice near the net.

Pilar looks better in games than practice. The interference call on Enstrom might have been a bad one. It didn't go over well with the crowd.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Waiver wire watching

Since none of the players in camp vying for the last forward spot have really made a case for themselves yet (Colin Stuart, Jordan LaVallee, Darren Haydar, and Bryan Little), don't be shocked if that spot is filled via the waiver wire. The next week and a half will see teams making tough choices among players, and a player could be a late cut from another team who would fill the role the Thrashers are looking for. Every year there are some players who become available who are quite worthwhile (Chris Kunitz a good, if painful, example), and since the Thrashers are under the 50-man contract limit, they have room to pick someone up.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Camp photos

Here are a few shots I took Saturday at the morning skate.

Bryan Little, Brett Sterling and Marian Hossa.

Little, ready for his turn.

Little and Jordan LaVallee.
Sterling being coached by Bob Hartley. Ondrej Pavelec is in the foreground.

Sterling confused by someone suddenly coming over the PA system. It was Dan Kamal.

Working with coach Steve Weeks. Pavelec is in net.

Young guys told to show an attitude

Today's practice was just the young guys, with the vets getting a day off (gym workout only).
Hartley started off the session with a 10-minute serious talk about wanting to see an attitude from them. He named Bryan Little ("Lits" as he calls him) as an example of someone who really needs to do this. He's "too polite," Hartley said. He needs to show some cockiness and grab a spot.

Afterward it was a pretty light practice, a "walk in the park" as Hartley described. There were lots of defensive drills, covering your point man, muscling in towards the net, forechecking and stripping the puck from the opponent.

lt. blue: Stuart - Little - Sterling - LaVallee
red: Thornburn - Haydar - Dupuis
grey: Popovic - Valabik
yellow: Pilar - Enstrom - Kwiatkowski
goalies: Lehtonen - Pavelec

Nathan Oystrick and Jason Krog did not take part, as they were part of a cut today that also included Alexandre Giroux and Milan Bartovic.

Tomorrow is the golf tournament so there is no practice. Kari Lehtonen may play Tuesday, but not the entire game. Maybe a period or period and a half. Today he and Ondrej Pavelec did a lot of individual work with coach Steve Weeks.

Slava Kozlov will play Tuesday, Brad Larsen is improving and is now in the gym.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thrashers vs. Blues 9-22-07

I'll try to post some comments during tonight's game for the benefit of the out of towners who can't be here.

I'm disappointed that Erik Johnson is not on the Blues roster tonight. I've seen him on TV, but not yet live. Looks like it will be 2008-09 before that happens.

1st intermission: Lots of penalties so we're seeing a lot of special teams play. That's good practice of course, so it's all good.
PP units I saw: 41-5-12-16-17 and then 18-28-77-26-38

I'm watching Patrick Berglund and am very impressed. He's big and he's skilled -- can't go wrong with that. David Perron, Steve Wagner, and Chris Porter look solid as well. The Blues have a bright future with these guys.

Tobias Enstrom had a shaky start to the period, a holding call and then falling down as he backed up to take a shot, but at the end defended a rush by Keith Tkachuk by taking the puck away from him. Maybe he was nervous in front of the home crowd.

Nathan Oystrick is paired with Steve McCarthy this game, but isn't faring much better. He pinched too far and couldn't get back, and then later had a needless icing.

2nd intermission: Preseason is a practice for everyone, including the off-ice officials. The clock wasn't on for the first two minutes of the period, and then suddenly there was 18:08 left. Lots of scoring this period, the STL one a PP goal in which they got Moose too far out of position and he couldn't get back. At the other end, Marian Hossa drove the net off a faceoff and put one in backhand. He went right past Berglund and Wagner. On the second STL goal, Perron powered to the net past Enstrom, and landed in it head first. Quite a goal. He's showing how silly all 30 teams were to pass on him last year.

McCarthy had a big hit, but hasn't played to a level where you'd say his roster spot is secure yet. Someone like Mark Popovic could certainly take it from him. I notice that Enstrom has had the most ice time so far, with 14:04.

The Haydar-Little-LaVallee line was hemmed in their own zone for a good while, getting more and more tired. (Alexei Zhitnik and Nic Havelid were out with them.)

Saturday practice notes

This morning was the open morning skate at Philips. Hartley was supposed to be mic'ed for the first hour but I think he turned the microphone off when they worked on the PP setups. You could still see what they were trying to do. One look had Enstrom sinking down to the net, where Sterling usually was, and Kovalchuk backing up and shooting from the left wing faceoff dot. On the other unit, Holik was the guy in front of the net.

There's a lot to be gained from watching players at another angle. Today Pilar's lack of speed was even more evident. He has 90 games of NHL experience, but that was in the old NHL. He doesn't look like a new NHL player. He should be a good veteran presence for the prospects in Chicago to learn from. On a side note, he seems very nice. I was having some trouble with a trick door at the practice facility yesterday and he came over and helped me.

Valabik hooked Boulton during a one on one, which caused Boulton to struggle and send the stick flying, which Valabik caught. It was like a circus act.

Lehtonen practiced with the non-game group. There are still five goalies in camp.

Don Waddell said that the boards and glass are all brand new at Philips this year. No doubt this was done due to hosting the All-Star game. There's also a new compressor for cooling. And lastly, the 2007-08 captain will be named at tomorrow's practice.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday practice, cuts, and lineup for Saturday

I was in mid-post about Lewis getting sent down when I got the press release about him and Kevin Doell. Lewis, whose hip is all healed up, pointed out that the Wolves have a team meeting tomorrow night to kick off training camp. He's new to the team so it makes sense for him to be there from the beginning. So he won't get into any Thrashers preseason games it looks like.

Dan Turple shouldn't be far behind headed to Chicago, Pavelec said he just lost him as a roommate. Pavelec will probably stick around for a while since Lehtonen is out with a groin issue. The start of the season is tough on the groin, so hopefully once he gets ramped up, it won't be a problem. I asked Pavelec about how he feels camp is going for him and he seems really pleased.

Lineup for tomorrow's game against St. Louis (first home game):
Bartovic - Holik - Hossa
Kovalchuk - White - Sterling
LaVallee - Little - Haydar
Slater - Perrin - Giroux

Zhitnik - Havelid
Enstrom - Klee
Oystrick - McCarthy

Hedberg - Pavelec

Bartovic continues to look better than expected. It looks like he lucked out on Kozlov's current soreness and will get a turn with the top line, including buddy Marian Hossa.

If you're planning to go to the open morning skate at Philips tomorrow, note that both groups will be practicing, the game and the non-game group. The second group starts at 11:15.

A few notes from today's practice. Dupuis is sick, left practice throwing up. Perrin and Havelid were troublemakers in the scatter drill -- hitting the sticks of other players and getting really close to them to throw them off. There was another drill where they had to pass over top of a line of sticks. If they hit the sticks, they had to do it over. Sterling didn't get it until the fourth try. Another time he was corrected on his positioning. Not the best practice for him.

Edit to add: Hartley was very complimentary of Enstrom's play against Nashville, praising several particulars. He talked with him about the too many men penalty, saying you have to make sure your guy is closer to the bench over here. Enstrom didn't think it was him being called, he "thought the whistle was from another planet." Hartley said that the last cuts were going to be very difficult.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thrashers at Predators (9/20/07)

Greetings from Nashvegas, one of my favorite cities to visit. Warmups just ended, and it was surprising to see both Kevin Doell and Darren Haydar warming up. The names and numbers look smaller on these new jerseys, I guess there is less surface area to work with. It's not good for those of use watching from the rafters though -- which is no exaggeration as there is actually a rafter that begins below my eye level. Good thing I always pack binoculars.

Starting lineup is McCarthy - Enstrom
Dupuis - Holik - LaVallee

Also playing:Kwiatkowski, Krog, Pilar, Giroux, Oystrick, Stuart, Valabik, Thorburn, Boulton, Little, Sterling, Brathwaite

1st intermission: Hmm, the shots are even (9-9), but it seems like Nashville has been in control a lot more. The Oystrick-Valabik pairing is really struggling to get the puck out of their end -- the Predators get set up on the cycle and they can't break it up. Oystrick was sort of between guys when the goal against was scored.

Other items, Steve Weeks could be spotted coaching LaVallee to be more aggressive on a play, using his fist to illustrate. Sterling and Stuart discussed strategy. Enstrom looks quite good, but I'll elaborate on that more later.

2nd intermission: Well I don't think you could argue too hard against someone who said that Enstrom is the team's best defenseman tonight. He's looked better than adequate, he's been solid in all areas. Great anticipation of where the puck is going, has been holding the zone, and I even saw him throw a hit.
Very nice goal by Sulzer, he's on my watch list. Quick release. The puck changed direction right in front -- must have hit a Thrasher skate. Wasn't Pavelec's fault for sure. The best line tonight may be the Boulton - Doell - Thorburn line.

Now in goal to start 3rd: Brathwaite.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On to Nashville

Just a quick note to say that I'll be at the preseason game in Nashville tomorrow night, and plan to have a few notes at least during the first and second intermissions. So check back for that. Some of them might be about the Predators prospects as well since I'll be keeping an eye on them.

Thanks for stopping by -- it's fascinating to see the hits come in from all over the globe. Lots of visitors from Canada, from places like Barrie, Ontario, junior stomping grounds of one Bryan Little. Tobias Enstrom is drawing visitors from Sweden. Brett Sterling has people checking in from California and Colorado. California actually beats out Illinois (home of the Chicago Wolves) as the state other than Georgia with the most visitors. Hello California!

Monday, September 17, 2007

A photo!

I'm trying out the photo uploading, it seems quite easy so far. This one was taken by an associate M. Masquelet on Saturday, and shows Bryan Little and Todd White stretching.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Injury update -- Lewis and Painchaud

First, the good news. Grant Lewis has been seeing the team trainer and massage therapist for his hip issue, is feeling much better and hopes to be back on the ice tomorrow (Monday).

"It's feeling much better today, actually," he said. "Each day of rest it's getting better. I originally hurt it out in Traverse City, they say I was just overusing my hip. I had a slight groin pull and my hip was compensating. In Traverse City, we skated quite a bit so it was just being overused. The last couple days just resting it, it's really loosened up. I'm hoping to get back on the ice tomorrow.

"All the tissue kind of tightened up as the body reacted to it. I've been seeing the masseuse and he's loosened up the tissue in there. Two days ago I couldn't even lift my hip. Yesterday I didn't do the off-ice workout, he just wanted me to take the day off and rest. But I'll be in the gym today."

Lewis said he had had groin pulls other years when he first got on the ice as well, but nothing too serious.

Meanwhile, Chad Painchaud has an MCL strain in his left knee, also suffered at Traverse City, which will keep him out about two or three weeks. He said it happened as he went to hit someone and his back leg got caught in the ice a bit. Often when you ask a player to tell you what happened on a play, they will reinact it for you. Not so with Painchaud, which showed the kind of pain he's still in. He's also showing a limp when he walks.

He said the first few days was mostly just icing it, but yesterday he did a couple exercises like step-ups. He's been told it will be two to three weeks before he can skate again. He just got fitted for a brace, which he'll wear when he skates, probably for months afterward. Chicago Wolves camp starts on the 22nd, so he'll still be rehabbing at that point.

In early 2006, Painchaud injured his right knee, also an MCL. He said of this current injury, "I don't think it's as bad. That's good. The one a couple years ago, I had a big charleyhorse too around the knee, but this one is strictly the MCL. I'll rehab and it will be fine."

Painchaud explained the proper treatment for this injury. "The most important thing is the first three days where it needs rest. It need to get tight, so you can loosen it back up. If you strain it and keep it loose, then it will always be loose and you have problems. It just needs good rest and you're good."

I kidded him that he was becoming a real expert on MCL injuries. He said, "Oh I know a little bit," laughing.

Is he disappointed in this kind of start to the season? "Yeah, definitely," he said. "I felt pretty good in Traverse City, I thought I was playing well. But it's just part of the game and I just have to move forward."

Training camp notes -- Day 3

Sunday was a bit more relaxed than Friday or Saturday. Instead of using both rinks simultaneously, the "game group" had pregame skate at 8:30, and the non-game group came on at 9:40.

Colors, lines and d-pairings
Red: LaVallee, Fretter, Stoesz, Haydar, Deveaux, Doell
Navy: Hossa, Holik, Kozlov, Boulton, Machacek, Hamilton
Lt blue: Havelid, Zhitnik
Yellow: Enstrom, McCarthy
Grey: Denny, Fahey

I watched Tobias Enstrom the most today. He made a really nice long bomb pass to a player as he crossed the blue line (I think it was Deveaux). He made another great pass to defensive partner McCarthy -- from the boards he backhanded it with zip, right to his stick. Enstrom holds onto the puck longer than you expect -- until he sees an option he likes. Coach Brad McCrimmon spoke to him several times after his turn in game-like drills, pointing out adjustments to make. The only issues I noticed today was failing to keep the puck in because he had moved over towards the middle and doesn't have the reach to get to pucks coming up the wall quickly, and another time he had sunked too far down into the zone.

Nic Havelid is still stick shopping. After drills, he and Enstrom were passing with each other and Havelid had Enstrom switch sticks with him. He tried it out for a while and then compared the curves. He has a couple more weeks to find something he likes.

Jordan LaVallee continues to look very solid. Today he was part of a three-man unit defending against the top five players and he had a nice PK type clear, poking the puck away from Havelid. His first-step quickness looks good.

One prediction I want to go on record as making: Brett Sterling, being a small guy, will get roughed up around the net, and Ilya Kovalchuk will step in to his defense, even from the get-go. Kovalchuk has stepped in to defend his 5'10 mentor Kozlov many times over the years, and I think he will feel the same protective instincts towards Sterling. Kovalchuk's a bigger guy than most realize, and with a bit of a temper, would probably fight a lot more if the coaches would let him.

I'll have an injury update later today after I transcribe some things.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Training camp notes -- Day 2

Today had more emphasis on game situations like breakouts from faceoffs, and working with your designated line. Hartley whistled play down often when he didn't like someone's positioning, and once because the line wasn't talking to each other. There was some one-on-one work as well.

The teams remained the same, with two exceptions. Brad Larsen has developed back spasms -- he "seized up like an old mule" according to Hartley. He's out a few days. Joey Crabb, who was already on Team A, took his spot on the third line with Perrin and Dupuis. Grant Lewis has a hip injury, which started in Traverse City, and will be out a few days. It became too painful after Friday's practice to continue. Hartley expressed sympathy for him, saying injuries in camp are tougher on younger players because everyone gets ahead of them, they lose their chance to see what they can do. Brian Fahey switched from Team B, which had had one more defenseman originally, to Team A to even out the numbers.

Regarding the practice socks, it seems that everyone got the message about putting the stripe in the back except Pascal Dupuis. He kept his in the front.

Machacek wore red today, the color of the LaVallee, Little and Haydar line, and took turns with them. Hamilton wore yellow, the color of the Pospsil, Krog and Deveaux line and switched out there.

Pospisil took a high stick to the face early in practice and went to the bench bleeding. I talked to him briefly afterwards. I've seen worse cut lips, but he said he chipped a tooth as well.

It's worthwhile to remark that Kovalchuk is passing to Sterling often, perhaps even too much. This is an encouraging sign, one that says he respects Sterling as a player and that he thinks he could get passes back from him at some point. That's not to say Kovalchuk intends a give and go, in fact he almost never has looked for that play no matter who he's playing with. But what goes around comes around, and Kovalchuk obviously thinks Sterling is worthy of having the puck sometimes. And why not -- Sterling made a great no look back pass from near the boards to a streaking Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk just missed picking it up, but it was a great idea and something they'll want to try again. Another time later on, Sterling came from behind the net and scored and Kovalchuk gave him a nice tap on the shin pads.

It seemed like a lot was accomplished today with all of the instruction going on. That's not to say everyone was listening all the time though. The White and the Perrin line matched up against each other on a face off, with Dupuis and Kovalchuk opposite each other. While Hartley was talking, those two were discussing sticks. You could almost hear Kovalchuk say "oh let me see that," and take Dupuis' stick in hand to look at the lie.

Other guys did their stick shopping at better times -- Havelid gave a feel to quite a few of them in the stick rack after practice.

Oystrick looked a bit better today than yesterday, though he didn't excel on the mountains. Holzapfel was extremely patient with the puck and finished with a beautiful backhand roof job. McCarthy was physical, but not the right way, he was dangerously hitting people from behind along the end boards. Klee is solid, but a great puckhandler he is not.

The tan Marian Hossa continues to show why he's one of the best players in the world. He, Holik and Kozlov seem to be getting along well as a line. And they are scoring. Dan Turple was beaten badly by them several times, in an unfavorable matchup for him.

The players did timed mountains at the end. LaVallee, Kozlov each won their heats. Machacek beat Kovalchuk the first time, but he didn't let that happen again. Little led his group by almost an entire zone. Popovic beat White by a bit the first time, then they were even the second. Zhitnik did well, Krog did not. Pospisil looked like he was going to throw up afterwards. Hedberg beat Lehtonen handily both times -- so Kari checked him into the end boards. Klee was last in his group. Boulton did well, while Holik and Stoesz were last in that group (this same result happened twice). Pilar was last in his group the first time, but did better the second time.

The best at the mountains may have been Hossa. Colton Fretter was in his group, and posted a :46 time, which is solid (especially for someone invited to camp on short notice). But Hossa beat him by half a rink length. Hossa's fluid skating stride makes it look like he's not even working at it either.

Fretter got the call to come to camp on Wednesday afternoon, asking if he could be on a plane at 5:30. He packed and drove to Detroit to catch a flight. He had done squats that day, which from the sounds of it, wasn't what someone should be doing if they are going to have physical testing the next day. He said he was tired after practice today, but doesn't look like the surprise has hurt him too much.

The goalies all did some work on positioning after both groups finished.

Hartley elaborated a bit on the kinds of meetings he had with players at the start of camp. They included discussions about which positions they are comfortable playing, and at which ones they are at their best.

Those traveling for Sunday and Monday's games include Exelby, Perrin and I think Oystrick. Twenty-five players will make the trip.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Training camp notes – Day 1

Thrashers training camp is being broken up into a Team A and Team B again this year, but with the prospects more integrated in with the veterans. Each team had two lines of likely roster players, and the rest were prospects and invitees.

Each line, however, was not integrated. The lines the team may start the season with were already formed on the first day of training camp, notably with White centering Kovachuk and Sterling, and Holik between Kozlov and Hossa. Bob Hartley said he likes to think in terms of “twosomes” and that he’d try Kovalchuk and White as a twosome during camp. He said he'd try different guys at right wing with them, but wouldn’t hide the fact that Sterling will get lots of looks there.

Enstrom was paired with Pilar, someone with whom he’s competing for a job. The team rosters read from top to bottom very much like a depth chart.

Kovalchuk - White - Sterling
Larsen - Perrin - Dupuis
LaVallee - Little - Haydar
Pospisil - Krog - Deveaux
Crabb - Hamilton - Machacek
Zhitnik - Havelid
Valabik - Popovic
Kwiatkowski - Lewis

Lehtonen, Hedberg

Kozlov - Holik - Hossa
Boulton - Slater - Thorburn
Stuart - Giroux - Schultz
Bartovic - Holzapfel - Fretter
Doell - Stoesz
Exelby - Klee
Enstrom - Pilar
Oystrick - McCarthy
Denny - Fahey

Brathwaite, Pavelec, Turple

The new practice socks, which have a thick white vertical stripe, caused confusion for the players – half of Team A wore the stripe in the front, half in the back. According to Don Waddell, the stripe should go in the back. Team B, who went on later than A, must have gotten the message, since they all had done it correctly. Or, it could be that they had more Europeans, who have seen these kind of socks before.

Hartley was in cheery form, handing out a puck to a child just 13 minutes into the first session. He said later that they dove right into teaching systems today, not conditioning work. “Basically” everyone came to camp in great shape, a phrasing which leaves room for one or two stragglers.

Making a good first impression: Todd White
Making a poor first impression: Joel Kwiatkowski

Hartley said he has already told the players how many preseason games they will play, so as to put their mind at ease over having one bad game. He also said that preseason games would feature a lot of prospects in the lineup.

Pilar would seem to be likely to get a lot of preseason action, since it’s been so long since he played due to injury. He did not look out of place at all today, and was hitting.

McCarthy sent Jesse Schultz into the boards in a heap, but he was fine later.

The vets were having a good time. Ken Klee went the wrong way on a drill and was laughing at himself. He seemed to be talking constantly throughout practice. Kozlov knocked the stick out of McCarthy’s hand very stealthily from behind.

Kovalchuk appears slimmer, but it could be a different choice in shoulder pads due to the new jerseys.

Mark Popovic changed his number from 6 to 7 this year.

In injury news, Chad Painchaud has a grade 2 MCL injury. He’ll rehab at Duluth for a few days, then to to Chicago. It is the opposite knee (the left) than he had injured in the spring of 2006, also for an MCL. Guillaume Desbiens pulled a hamstring in summer training, and will report directly to Chicago.

Hartley said the team will carry 22 players to start the season.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hello world.

Requisite opening line out of the way, hopefully no introductions are necessary. You probably wouldn't be here if you're not interested in Thrashers prospects, and if so, I should be familiar to you.

I have more items than I have flexibility to report at HF due to the more feature-y nature of our our work, so a blog is probably a good outlet for them. I hope to update at least twice a week, and have extras like practice photos. This will be where I put any breaking news I have though, so I would recommend subscribing to the RSS feed if you want to read these things immediately.