Hedberg Starts for Thrashers

The goaltender for the Atlanta Thrashers won't matter much if their top scorers don't produce. The New York Rangers, meanwhile, have no such concerns.

Backup Johan Hedberg will get the start in goal Saturday as the Thrashers look to even their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Rangers at one game apiece.

Oddsmakers have made Atlanta -140 money line (NHL Odds) favorites for todays game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 total goals (View NHL Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 74% of bets for this game have been placed on Atlanta -140 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

Behind strong games from their best players, the Rangers earned their first postseason victory since May 18, 1997, with a 4-3 win Thursday at Philips Arena in Game 1.

Jaromir Jagr, Michael Nylander and Martin Straka - New York's top three scorers - combined for two goals and four assists while Atlanta's leading trio of Marian Hossa, Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov were held without a point.

Although they gave away home-ice advantage in the franchise's playoff debut, the Thrashers can be pleased that they pulled within one goal on three separate occasions and nearly tied it on a power play that covered the final 1:11.

"Maybe we were a little nervous out there, but we made a few adjustments," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "Now we have one game under our belt and it's important that we keep going on what we built in the third period."

Kari Lehtonen didn't play poorly in his playoff debut, stopping 34 of 38 shots. Nylander's goal late in the second period, though, came off a rebound that deflected off Lehtonen's glove and stretched New York's lead to 4-2.

Hartley will now switch to Hedberg, who has far more postseason success.

Hedberg is 10-10 with a 2.31 goals-against average in 20 playoff games, including a run to the 2000-01 Eastern Conference finals with Pittsburgh. He made 38 saves in a 2-1 win over the Rangers on March 16, and is 5-3-0 with a 1.69 GAA in eight career starts against them.

Lehtonen probably will be back as the starter in Game 3 in New York on Tuesday.

"I could feel that Kari wasn't as comfortable as he would like, but that's called experience," Hartley said. "You need to go through this at some point in your career."

Henrik Lundqvist wasn't as busy as Lehtonen in Game 1, turning away 21 shots for his first career playoff victory. Lundqvist went 0-3 last season as the Rangers were swept in the opening round by New Jersey.

"I just tried to battle," Lundqvist said. "It was a close game in the end. We battled real hard in front of the net."

Pascal Dupuis, Shane Hnidy and Eric Belanger were unlikely goal scorers for the Thrashers, who had won three straight against the Rangers in the regular season.

Getting production from different sources is usually a very good sign in the playoffs, but Atlanta needs scoring from Hossa, Kovalchuk, Kozlov and Keith Tkachuk to have success in this series. Only Tkachuk had a point in Game 1.

While Kovalchuk made his postseason debut Thursday, Hossa appeared in his 52nd playoff game and Kozlov in his 115th. Hossa has been limited to 13 goals in his postseason career while Kozlov has 42 goals and 37 assists.

Hossa, who had a career-high 100 points in the regular season, was outscored by younger brother Marcel, who gave New York a 3-1 lead midway through the second period with his first career playoff goal. Marcel missed the final month of the season with a knee injury.

by: Gary Roberts - theSpread.com - Email Us

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