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Tampa Bay Lightning

SIZING UP THE ATLANTA THRASHERS

Wednesday, 09.13.2006 / 12:00 AM / Bolts Report
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SIZING UP THE ATLANTA THRASHERS
Atlanta


Who's the Story In Atlanta?

LW Ilya Kovalchuk, 23, set career highs and team records with 52 goals and 98 points in 2005-06. He also tied a career high with 46 assists to rank third on the club. After posting 13 points in his first 11 games, Kovalchuk notched 85 points (47 goals, 38 assists) in his final 67 contests, an average of 1.3 per game.

With 160 goals in his first 305 NHL games over four seasons, Kovalchuk is one of hockey's most prolific goal-scorers. He scored 29 as an 18-year-old rookie in 2001-02, notched 38 goals at 19 and tied for the League goals title with 41 in 2003-04 to go along with his career-high 52 in 2005-06.

"The stars of this league are playing for our club, and I think that says a lot. We don't have to go out and find a star - we just have to find the pieces to go around the stars." - Thrashers GM Don Waddell, April 21, 2006.

*****

In his first season with the Thrashers, RW Marian Hossa set career highs with 52 assists and 91 points and reached the 30-goal mark for the fifth consecutive season, finishing second to Kovalchuk on the club with 39. He shared the team lead and club record with seven game-winning goals and led Thrashers with a club-record +17 rating. The Thrashers were 21-11-1 when he scored a goal and 30-20-4 when he recorded a point.

G Kari Lehtonen, 22, overcame an abdominal injury suffered on opening night of the 2005-06 season to post an impressive rookie season. Lehtonen finished with a record of 20-15-0, a 2.94 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage. He posted a team-record five-game winning streak from Jan. 6-18, won nine of 12 at one point and set a franchise record by making 28 consecutive starts, the second-longest streak in the NHL during the 2005-06 season.

Lehtonen also excelled in shootouts, posting a 5-0 record. Without Lehtinen, the Thrashers went 0-5. He posted the best shootout save percentage of all NHL goaltenders, stopping 17 of 20 shots (.850).

"It's a disappointing year because I wasn't able to play as many games as I wanted. I needed to learn how to play in the NHL and I think I did that." - Kari Lehtonen, May 2, 2006.

*****

The Thrashers added goaltending depth with the signing of Johan Hedberg, 33. Of Atlanta's 241 man-games lost to injuries this season, 101 were by goaltenders. Hedberg posted a 12-4-1 record and a 2.67 goals-against average in 19 games with Dallas last season. He tied his career high with a six-game win streak from Dec. 2 to Jan. 9, notching a 1.64 goals-against average in that span.

The native of Leksand, Sweden has posted a 66-67-15 record and 2.81 GAA in 156 NHL games with Pittsburgh, Vancouver and Dallas. He has earned a 10-10 record with a 2.31 GAA in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff contests. The 6-0, 185-lb. netminder set career highs with 25 wins and a club-record 66 games with Pittsburgh in 2001-02. He also registered a career-best 2.51 GAA in 21 games with Vancouver in 2003-04.

*****

RW Scott Mellanby, named the fifth captain in Thrashers history on Sept. 27, 2005, ranked eighth on the club in scoring with 34 points (12 goals, 22 assists) in 71 games last season. He completed his 20th season in the NHL and reached some memorable milestones, including his 800th career point on April 8. In addition, he became the 35th player in NHL history to appear in 1,300 games on October 25. The team posted a 19-4-1 record when he recorded a point and was 9-1-0 when he tallied a goal.

The Montreal native has registered 804 points (352 goals, 452 assists) in 1,363 NHL regular-season games with Philadelphia, Edmonton, Florida, St. Louis and Atlanta. Of Mellanby's 352 career goals, 135 have come on the power play and 51 have been game-winners. He has recorded at least 40 points in a season on 11 occasions, including 50 points or more seven times. He also has tallied 20 or more goals in a season eight times. He ranks 29th on NHL's all-time games list with 1,362 and has played in 70 or more regular-season games 13 times.

D Steve McCarthy was a valuable acquisition at the trade deadline last season, collecting 10 points (seven goals, three assists) in 16 games with the Thrashers after arriving from Vancouver on March 9, 2006 for a fourth-round selection in the 2007 Entry Draft. The native of Trail, B.C., has collected 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 201 NHL games over six seasons with Chicago, Vancouver and Atlanta. He was originally selected by Chicago in the first round, 23rd overall, in the 1999 Entry Draft.

*****

D Vitaly Vishnevski, 26, has played in 70 or more games in the past five NHL seasons, including at least 80 twice. He skated in a career-high 82 games with Anaheim last season, notching eight points (one goal, seven assists) and a +8 rating in 16:25 of ice time per game. Vishnevski also appeared in all 16 playoff games for the Ducks, recording four assists.

"He brings a considerable physical presence to our blueline and is a solid all-around player that our fans will quickly embrace." - Thrashers GM Don Waddell, August 17, 2006.

*****

Blue-chip D Braydon Coburn will try to crack the Thrashers' lineup on a full-time basis. Coburn was selected eighth overall in the 2003 Entry Draft and went on to capture 2003-04 WHL Western Conference All-Star Team honors with the Portland Winter Hawks. The 6-5, 220-lb. Calgary native made his pro debut with the AHL Chicago Wolves in the 2004-05 playoffs and played 73 games there last season, recording 26 points (six goals, 20 assists). He also made nine appearances for the Thrashers, notching one assist.

*****

D Niclas Havelid, 33, appeared in all 82 games for the Thrashers in 2005-06, recording 32 points (four goals, 28 assists). He led the team in average ice time per game (24:25), average shifts per game (30.6) and finished second on the team in blocked shots (190). Among team defensemen, he ranked second in assists, third in goals and third in points and set career highs in assists, average ice time and plus/minus (+9).

"Niclas is the ultimate professional who provided a tremendous amount of skill, experience and character throughout his first season with the team. He is a huge factor in the strength of our defense and in our locker-room." - Thrashers GM Don Waddell, June 7, 2006.

*****

C Steve Rucchin, 35, arrives in Atlanta after helping the New York Rangers to their first playoff berth in seven seasons in 2005-06. The 6-3, 215-lb. Thunder Bay, Ontario native played in 72 games for the Rangers, recording 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists).