The Capitals will kick off their 36th NHL season tonight with a game against the Thrashers down in Blueland. The Caps have started the season twice in Atlanta against the Thrash going 1-1-0. In the 2008-09 season the Caps fell to the Thrashers 7-4 but in the 2007-08 season the Caps won 3-1. Washington has won its last eight games against Atlanta dating back to the 2008-09 season.
But the team that will take the ice at Phillips Arena this evening won't look exactly like last year's Thrashers. Gone are the pesky Colby Armstrong (Maple Leafs), Marty Reasoner (Panthers), Pavel Kubina (Lightning) and Johan Hedberg (Devils). The Thrashers will also miss the contributions of Max Afinigenov, a 24-goal scorer last season who bolted for the KHL. Not to mention of course the departure from Atlanta late last season of their marquee sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, whose controversial contract with New Jersey kept the hockey media abuzz all summer.
HM has started to refer to the retooled Thrashers as "Blackhawks South" in reference to the four players from the Cup-winning Chicago team who were brought to the Coca-Cola capital this off-season by Atlanta GM Rick Dudley. Former Hawks Ben Eager and Andrew Ladd will aid in Atlanta's offensive efforts, while Brent Sopel and big boy Dustin Byfuglien will shore up the blue line. Don't be surprised to see Big Buff's grill in front of the net however, as he may also see time as forward due to his talents in crashing the net. Chris Mason came over from St. Louis to man Atlanta's net, along with Ondrej Pavelec. Other kids to watch for include d-men Zach Bogosian and Tobia Enstrom, along with swift winger Evander Kane (who wrecked uber-villain Matt Cooke in a fight his rookie season). Everyone will definitely be keeping a close eye on 18-year old Russian center Alex Burmistrov, who will be making his NHL debut against fellow countrymen Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin. For an inside look at this Southeastern Conference rival, check out Birdwatcher's Anonymous along with previews from the other side over on Atlanta's Web site.
22-year old Russian netminder Sergei Brobovsky stood on his head last night for the Flyers to spoil the Pittsburgh Penguins' home opener in their fancy new digs at the Console Energy Center. As for the Caps, it looks like our own talented Russian netminder Semyon Varlamov is still suffering from a groin injury. Michal Neuvirth will most likely be the starter for this evening's festivities.
And you know our favorite season of the year is finally upon us when Puck Daddy starts providing Brian Engblom hair updates! HM will be watching the Caps start on the long road to redemption with my fellow hockey parents and the boys' team tonight - and as if I have to tell you as I know we're all counting down the minutes - puck drops at 7:30.
To leave you with a smile on your face on this glorious day, check out the cutest story ever about the beloved Olie Kolzig from the fun folks over at RMNB. As if you needed more reason to love the guy...all together now: 1,2,3 - AAAWWW!