Atlanta can play hockey!

Nov 14, 2006 6:27 AM

Martin Hossa and the Atlanta Thrashers won’t come to mind in just about any NHL conversation, but they are both worthy mention.

Hossa leads the NHL in goals (15), points (30) and praise for leading the surprising Thrashers to first place in the Southeast Division. Atlanta was a full six points ahead of defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina through last Saturday’s play.

The Thrashers are a breath of fresh air for the Philadelphia of the South. With Carolina and Tampa Bay winning the last two Stanley Cups (in between strike year) and Nashville a rising power, the NHL is whistling Dixie for its decision to expand there.

In betting numbers, Atlanta is following an age old habit — home ice advantage. The Thrashers are 6-3-1 at home.

We decided to check how home teams did on a busy Saturday night and the results were predictable. Visitors won just four of 11 games and three were road favorites. Only Calgary’s 3-2 win over Vancouver could be considered an upset, and the Flames were just three points behind the Canucks in the Pacific Division.

Our winning percentage is still below the Mendoza line, much to our chagrin. We’re going to the penalty box and think.

Boston at Wash (tues): We’re trusting Boston and its 1-4-1 road record to come up short in D.C., where Ovechkin should be good for a goal or two. CAPITALS.

Nashville at Columbus (wed): Blue Jackets are capable of pulling off an upset at home. Nashville leads the division. Expect raucous crowd. BLUE JACKETS.

Philly at LA Kings (thu): The Flyers are terrible. Los Angeles has to win a home game sometime. KINGS.

Chicago at Anaheim (fri): The Ducks are their mightiest now that they dropped that name. This pick is a no-brainer, so we’ll give the 1½ goals. DUCKS.

Buffalo at Ottawa (sat): The natives are restless in Ottawa. With Buffalo minus Afiniganov, edge goes to Sens. Ottawa really needs this one for morale. SENATORS.