I just got home from the first home pre-season game of the Thrashers' season. Luckily, I made it there in one piece, considering that I thought I was going to have to build a damn ark to make it down to Philips thanks to the downpours of the past week. Crowd was sparse because of the weather - and before you say something like "Pfft, duh," no. It really WAS the weather. Every metro Atlanta school district is closing tomorrow because of flooding.
Got a chance to talk to Bill Tiller (AKA Rawhide) before the game during warm-ups. Always nice to see him - if you get a sec to read his blog, I completely suggest it. Chatted about Legace's chances for making the team. We pretty much agree that Pavs needs to go down one more year, and that Legace's got a really good chance to be our starting goalie on opening night. Manny looked sharp during the warm-ups. Very strong glove side, and *very* fast - faster than I've probably seen him move in a long time. He also looked like he was having a blast. Jarring to not see him in his usual number 34 - he was wearing 29 because Peter Mannino has 34, and weird to see him with a mostly blank mask save for the breast cancer ribbon on the back.
Apparently the irritation about Kari that was shown at the town hall by Don Waddell spilled over to the next morning at the Season Ticket Holders' breakfast, where he reiterated pretty forcefully that he is not a lock for #1. I think some people are still irritated about the delay in having his surgery, which is inexplicable and fairly selfish.
The game was actually a pretty good one considering the wonky line-ups that the Canes and Thrashers had out there. The Kubina-Hainsey experiment didn't last very long, since Hainsey left early with a lower body injury (as did Armstrong), but from what I saw it looked pretty solid. It looked really solid when Kubina scored the first goal of the game. I have never noticed on TV how big he is, but he is built like a house - Antropov as well. Our team grew about 20lbs on average this off-season.
The player that caught my eye the most was defenseman Paul Postma. There's a strong chance that he will be returned to his WHL team (or possibly the Wolves - I think he's old enough now), but wow. You can tell how he lead the WHL in defenseman scoring a few years back. He is *quick* - probably as quick as most of our forwards. Very good stickhandling skills as well.
Vernace and Popovic were the random odd men out defensive pair. I really didn't notice a huge amount about Vernace, but Pops looked either unsure or lazy out there on a few plays. He wound up as the #2 star of the game, so apparently he wasn't that bad - but he could have been a lot sharper. One would think that considering this is a try-out for him he'd be busting his butt.
The Kovy-Antropov-Little line was successful on a Bryan Little goal in the 3rd. Koz-White-Peverley was together as well again, and they had a few chances, but just couldn't seem to convert on any of them. It is always nice to see Slater score, though. He tries so hard - he needs to be rewarded once in a while.
Moose looked like... well... Moose. Good stickhandling, good puck clearance - nice up-ice play. The two goals he allowed were the usual weird ones. The first goal was one that he had no chance to get to at all unless he was Stretch Armstrong (or Ben Bishop). The second one was the bizarre bounce that we come to expect at least once a game. It wasn't his strongest game ever, but Moose has always been our best goaltender against Carolina, and he wound up snagging another win, 4-1.
Wednesday night's game is at home against the Nashville Predators. Hopefully the skies'll part for a second and more people can get down there to watch the game. My guess is Legace's in net, so I'll have some more updates on that situation. As far as tonight's game, if you weren't there, you can just read Ben Wright's live blog, or catch the post-game press conference with Coach John Anderson.