It’s time for the Thrashers to get desperate.
Coach Craig Ramsay wants -- and needs -- a sense of urgency to return to his team’s penalty-kill unit. The Thrashers have fallen to 28th in the NHL on the penalty kill. Much of the slide can be attributed to the past four games. In that span, the Thrashers have allowed nine goals in 16 short-handed efforts. That includes Toronto’s 5-for-7 effort last week. The Maple Leafs scored four times on a major power play in a span of 3:32.
“The penalty killing, it does come down to work ethic, work load,” Ramsay said. “You are short-handed, and you must outwork your opponents. There is no question we just haven’t done that. When we’ve had a chance to clear it -- it cost us two goals in one game, where we had a chance to clear it and didn’t get it down. You only get X number of chances to shoot the puck down the ice when you are killing a penalty.
"We like to try to be aggressive, maybe score a short-handed goal. Most importantly right now, they have to be desperate. They have to take pride. We’ve let that slip a little bit. We are just trying to get the job done rather than be excited about being a penalty killer.”
The Thrashers will need a strong penalty kill when they host Philadelphia on Friday at Philips Arena. The Flyers (59 points) lead the Eastern Conference, eight points ahead of the eighth-place Thrashers. Atlanta has slipped down the conference standings with a 3-5-2 record the past 10 games.
“[The Flyers] have so many different options on the power play,” Thrashers captain Andrew Ladd said. “It’s not keyed to one certain guy. They move the puck so well and have five guys who can shoot the puck. It’s important to be positionally strong. You have to sacrifice the body and block shots and make sure you do everything you can to limit their chances.”
The Thrashers have a 77.1 percent success rate (36-for-157) on the penalty kill. They are ahead of only Colorado (76.7) and Edmonton (74.7) in the NHL.
Ramsay said that he has relied on Rich Peverley and Ladd too much on the penalty kill during the season. The reliable forwards need help.
“I think they are good at it. Pevs has been good on his draws,” Ramsay said. “Ladd is a good wall battler; he’s got a good stick. They’ve tried to create offense, too, while they are out there.
"I think there is a personal responsibility on my part to push other guys to do it. I need, say, a [Patrice] Cormier to do it. I need [Alexander Burmistrov] to do more. If Freddy Modin stays healthy, he needs to do more of it. [Chris] Thorburn can do it and has been doing it. But we do have to extend it out a little bit. … It’s part of my responsibilities to develop more penalty killers.”
Ladd is third on the team, and first among forwards, in short-handed time on the ice. He has spent 85:08 this season on the man-disadvantage. Peverley is sixth on the team, and third among forwards, with 73:36 of short-handed time.
Both players said they like being on the penalty-kill unit and didn’t think they were being used too much.
- Evander Kane, on injured reserve with a mid-body injury, practiced for the second consecutive day Thursday. Ramsay said he will be re-evaluated, and it will be Kane's decision when he is able to return.
- Jim Slater (concussion) practiced Thursday. He will undergo another neuropsyche test and will skate again Friday. Modin (mid-body) did not practice Thursday. Ramsay said the forward received an injection in the injured area and will try to skate Friday.
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