The Thrashers went back to the drawing board in practice Monday in an effort to fix a struggling power play unit. The Thrashers have scored just six goals the past 73 opportunities with a man advantage (eight percent), including an 0-for-12 streak in the past two games.
The team changed personnel slightly. One unit consisted of Ilya Kovalchuk, Tobias Enstrom, Bryan Little, Nik Antropov and Todd White/Slava Kozlov. The second unit included Pavel Kubina, Zach Bogosian, Max Afinogenov, Colby Armstrong and Rich Peverley.
“We switched it up a little today,” coach John Anderson said. “I thought it was much better.”
The team even employed a game to help the cause. Units got a half-point for every shot on goal and a full point for a goal.
“At least I could see some excitement and noise out there,” Anderson said.
Fixing the power play could be one answer for a team fighting for a playoff spot. Entering Monday's schedule, the Thrashers were tied for 12th in the Eastern Conference with 52 points, but just three points out of the eighth spot.
“We are not far from playoffs, but we can’t put two, three wins together,” Kozlov said. “Unfortunately, the power play has been quiet. You can win games if your power play gets hot. A team with a hot power play can win games even if it didn’t play very well.”
The Thrashers are 18th in the league on the power play (17.7 percent), down for a unit that was among the NHL’s best not so long ago.
The Thrashers insist that they are moving in the right direction. They are 4-4-1 since snapping a nine-game winless streak.
“We are trending to better play,” defenseman Ron Hainsey said. “We have out-chanced or out-shot the other team and have still lost. That’s mildly frustrating. We are not scoring many goals right now for whatever reason. Our shots-against are down. Our goals-against are down. Our team play is much better. We haven’t capitalized power-play-wise at all, but we are working on that. The penalty kill has had some good nights, it’s had some bad nights. ... We all feel our team play has been the best it’s been the last few weeks.”
Anderson said look no further than the fate of Johan Hedberg to illustrate the point. The goaltender has allowed just one goal in each of his past two games – and lost both.
“It’s kind of bizarre to me at this point of the year we are having trouble scoring goals, because that’s usually one of our fortes,” Anderson said. “Our defense is better, so we’ve fixed that. We are filling the holes in the dike again. One week it’s one thing, one week it’s another. If we ever put it all together, we could be a force out there.”
The Thrashers have not won back-to-back games since Dec. 12 and 14.
Shootout without Kozlov
The Thrashers’ 2-1 shootout loss to Tampa on Saturday came with Kozlov in street clothes, a healthy scratch. Kozlov is among the league’s best in the tiebreaker, having scored on four of six chances this season.
“That’s the dark cloud that’s hanging over us,” Anderson said. “I was planning on not going to a shootout and winning the hockey game. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
The move snapped Kozlov’s franchise record of 251 consecutive starts.
“I’m disappointed,” Kozlov said. “It was my first scratch in a long time. Nothing I can do but work hard in practice. Hopefully I’m going to play in the next game. There have been a few players scratched this year. I’ll try to be positive.”
Forward Chris Thorburn missed Monday’s practice due to a family issue, according to Anderson. The matter called for Thorburn to be out of town, but Anderson expected him to return for Tuesday’s game against Anaheim.