Thrashers line pays dividends with dirty work

Since the Thrashers put Evander Kane, Jim Slater and Colby Armstrong on a line they have produced big results. The trio has combined for 11 points (five goals, six assists) in the past five games. Slater and Kane teamed for two goals in a 4-3 victory over Philadelphia on Thursday.

While each possesses different skills, they share a similar mind-set. Do the dirty work. Get the puck out of the corner. Get traffic in front of the opposing goaltender. Put the puck on net.

“We are all different type of players,” Kane said. “That’s what makes our line successful. We compliment each other really well. Everybody brings something different to the line.

“But we all bring a lot of effort. We put pressure on the other team. We’re willing to go to areas to get pucks that some guys don’t want to go.”

Slater has been at the center of it -- literally. Slater scored twice Thursday, both on wraparound assists from Kane. Slater has two goals and an assist in the five-game stretch.

After the center was scratched for 21 of the first 38 games this season, Slater has played in 15 consecutive. His performance has led to veterans such as Todd White and Slava Kozlov being healthy scratches. He also leads the NHL in faceoffs-won percentage.

“No question he has really upped his game,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said. “Not only is he playing great defensively, but he has been scoring goals. Right now, he’s one of the top faceoff men in the league. When you have all those things going for you, it’s hard to keep him out of the lineup.”

Kane has contributed with a goal and four assists in the past five games. Armstrong has two goals and an assist.

With different skills, such as Kane’s ability to twice race around All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger for assists in the win over the Flyers, they know what they must do to be successful.

“I think we are all the same type of players,” Slater said. “We create a lot of opportunities in the defensive zone. We go to the net, work on our defense down low, being the first ones on the puck and cycling it. I think a lot of our goals happen 10 feet and in. We get traffic in front of the net, and pucks have been laying there and we’ve been able to put them in the net.”

As Armstrong says: “Simplicity is our bread and butter.”

The Thrashers are 3-1-1 in the past five games and moved back into playoff contention with the latest run. That’s what is important, all three said.

“I think we can keep it going,” Slater said. “We have to keep it going for this team to be where we want to be in the end. You are going to go through some up-and-down streaks, but right now we are really clicking well. ... You have to have secondary scoring to carry you into a playoff spot, and our line has given us that opportunity.”

Notes: Center Nik Antropov attended but did not participate in the team’s practice Friday. ... In his absence, Slava Kozlov practiced on a line with Ilya Kovlachuk and Bryan Little.

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