When the Blackhawks meet the Thrashers at the Philips Arena in Atlanta tonight, there will be friendly reunions all over the ice -- at least before the game starts; once action begins, of course, it'll be all business.
Brent Sopel, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager and Dustin Byfuglien are members of the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks who were traded to the Thrashers almost before they could enjoy carting the Cup all over Chicagoland and the world. And that's not even counting several members of the Thrashers who Chicago fans are familiar with because Atlanta's AHL minor league affiliate is the Chicago Wolves. Thrashers opening night goalie Ondrej Pavelec made news that night for a reason he'd probably rather forget -- he collapsed on the ice during the second period. After a rehab stint with the Wolves, Pavelec is back in action for the Thrashers, although he has -- for now -- been supplanted by Chris Mason as starting goalie.
Meanwhile, the Hawks make this trip in some disarray. This morning, coach Joel Quenneville pulled his team off the ice during their morning skate:
The Hawks, who have lost five of their last seven games, did about 15 minutes of drills before Quenneville called them together as a team, spoke for a moment and then sent them off the ice, making it an abbreviated preparation for their game against the Thrashers.
"I just didn't like the way it was going," Quenneville said. "I wanted to keep to keep our energy for (Saturday night). I just think we can be sharper, that's all."
While Quenneville downplayed the maneuver, the players got the coach's message.
"I think he had a right to be a little (upset) about it all," starting goaltender Marty Turco said. "It has a little to do with today and a lot to do with other things that have been going on probably. Our record speaks for it but more about why our record is what it is."
The Thrashers are 2-3 at home; the Blackhawks 3-3 on the road. The game begins at 6 p.m. CDT and will be televised on WGN-TV.