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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Thrashers, Wednesday 12/30

As if the Bruins (19-12-7) don’t have enough distractions with the Winter Classic quickly approaching, the fact that several different countries have announced their rosters for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver also serves as another reason for the players to lose focus. Instead, the B’s will hope to stay focused on the task at hand tonight, which is facing the familiar Atlanta Thrashers (18-16-4) at the Garden.

Touching on the Olympic roster announcements first before diving into tonight’s matchup, several players in tonight’s game have heard their name announced in the past few days to represent their respective countries in February. For Boston, David Krejci was named to the Czech Republic roster, while Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will be featured as the top defenseman on the Slovakia team. And maybe the biggest surprise was the announcement of the Canadian Olympic team, which will include arguably the best player on the Bruins team this year, Patrice Bergeron.

Bergeron, just 24 years old, leads the Bruins in points this season, forcing Canadian GM Steve Yzerman take notice. Bergeron was not a part of the 60-man orientation camp this summer for the Canadian squad, but his play since then is what clearly elevated him up the ranks and onto the final 23-man list. Center Marc Savard and winger Milan Lucic both were left off the roster, likely with recent injuries being the main concern. Lucic was a part of the summer’s camp, while Savard has been a career-long snub of the Canadian Olympic team.

On the flip side, Atlanta will feature four future Olympians, as wingers Ilya Kovalchuk and Maxim Afinogenov will join the Russian Olympic team, while defenseman Pavel Kubina and goalie Ondrej Pavelec will play for the Czech Republic.

The U.S. Olympic roster will be announced on NBC, immediately following Friday’s Winter Classic game at Fenway Park. Likely to be included on that roster will be Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who is battling a field of goaltenders that include Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, Colorado’s Craig Anderson, and the Kings’ Jonathan Quick.

Getting back to tonight’s game, here are a few quick newsworthy notes as the B’s prepare for their final Winter Classic tune-up…

  • This will be the third meeting of the season already for these two teams. Boston has won both of the previous matchups, winning a 4-3 shootout in November, then winning a 6-4 game last week at the Garden.
  • Boston has now won eight straight games over Atlanta, dating back to the ’07-’08 season.
  • Atlanta is in the midst of a five-game losing streak coming into tonight’s game. The Thrashers have lost all but one of those five games by just one goal, with the one exception being the game against Boston last Wednesday.
  • Tonight’s game will feature two very opposite teams. Atlanta is currently third in the league at 3.18 goals per game, while Boston is third worst at 2.47. On the other hand, Boston ranks fifth in the NHL at 2.34 goals against per game, with Atlanta ranked fifth worst at 3.13.
  • There are similarities when it comes to the teams’ success at the faceoff dot. Boston currently ranks fourth at 53.2%, while Atlanta sits in the seventh spot at 51.5%.
  • The B’s should be able to hammer whichever Atlanta goalie is between the pipes this evening, as the Thrashers average the most shots against in the league at 34.2 shots against per game.
  • Speaking of Atlanta goalies, the Thrashers feature Czech Republic Olympian Ondrej Pavelec (9-10-5, 3.42 GAA) and Johan Hedberg (9-6-2, 2.47 GAA). Both goalies appeared in last week’s game, as Hedberg relieved Pavelec after Pavelec gave up three early goals.
  • The Atlanta stat sheet is led by the two Russian Olympian wingers, Ilya Kovalchuk (23G, 19A) and Maxim Afinogenov (13G, 22A). Kovalchuk is currently on a 10-game points streak. Following the Russians are forwards Nik Antropov (10G, 24A) and Rich Peverley (12G, 21A).

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