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Let's take a look at the Atlanta Thrashers

[SBN Atlanta Thrashers blog - Bird Watcher's Anonymous]

Last season the Penguins swept the Atlanta Thrashers in all four regular season meetings, outscoring them by a combined 18-8.  This season it may not be as easy, especially when you consider Atlanta is playing with a healthy Ilya Kovalchuk and a stellar netminder who goes by the name of Ondrej Pavelec.  More on him later.

But first, Kovalchuk.  He's beast.  He's dangerous.  He plays with a ridiculous level of intensity.  But did you really need me to tell you that?  Since returning to the lineup, after missing nearly a month with a broken foot, it would appear as if the guy hasn't missed a beat. 

Here are his numbers since returning (in just four games played):

G A P +/- PIM
2009 - Ilya Kovalchuk 4 7 11 5 0

And here's where he stands on the season:

G A P +/- PIM
2009 - Ilya Kovalchuk 13 8 21 4 8

Look at that assist total.  It's scary to think seven of his eight assists this season came in just four games - his last four played since returning from injury.  Is it possible this guy returned from injury better than before he went out?  Perhaps, but I suppose that assessment leaves room to more or less conclude that he wasn't good before he left.  That is, of course, not true.

On to Pavelec, who may be one of the better goaltenders to emerge from an injured roster in the very early part of this season.  His 6-5-2 record indicates a winning percentage, just barely, but when you look at his other numbers (and the average of these numbers), the guy really works hard out there.  Pavelec is averaging just about 32 saves per game over his last five appearances.  And although he's giving up just about three goals per game during this same span, he is also managing to keep his team in it long enough to make a run at regaining the lead.  Three games ago Pavelec recorded his first career shutout, a 7-0 beatdown of the LA Kings.  Atlanta wound up victims of a shutout in the next game against Boston, and tonight look to pick up a win with Pavy in net.

With any luck Ruslan Fedotenko decides to not break his hand on Colby Armstrong's face again and the Pens leave this one free of pain, and hopefully with the 'W' as well.  It's already a good sign that Brooks Orpik will return for this one.

Puck and thread drop at 7:00.  Bring your A game.