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League's top scorer draws plenty of attention

Tuesday, 01.15.2008 / 10:44 PM ET / News
By Derek Gluth  - DetroitRedWings.com Intern
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League\'s top scorer draws plenty of attention
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DETROIT -- When the league's leading goal scorer comes to town, he's bound to get some extra attention. Atlanta sniper Ilya Kovalchuk came into Tuesday's game with 62 points and 37 goals. He was sure to get noticed by the Red Wings.

Early in the game Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall kept a close eye on Kovalchuk drawing contact with him every time the Thrashers' left wing entered the offensive zone. The downside to this approach occurred in the middle of the first period when Kronwall went for the hit, Kovalchuk ducked it and he led a two-on-one break into the Wings' zone. While it didn't lead to a goal for Atlanta, it showed just how dynamic he can be.

Wings coach Mike Babcock thought dynamic was a good word to describe the Thrashers' main threat.

"I think he's a great example for young kids to watch," Babcock said, "how far his hands are out in front of his body when he handles is really dynamic. I always love the guys that every time they've got it they want to shoot it. To me that's a great thing."

Kovalchuk's presence is felt even when he isn't shooting, the constant attention from Kronwall led to a high-sticking penalty late in the first period, a power play on which Kovalchuck showed more dazzle.  He cut through a crowd of Red Wings to get his first shot on net, and it wouldn't be the last time he made his presence felt. He finished with five of the Thrashers' 25 shots.

In the second period, Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski tried to take Kovalchuk wide, and fell backwards. Kovalchuk's rush to the goal set up center Eric Perrin, who gave the Thrashers a 4-0 lead. It was Kovalchuck's lone assist.

"You've got to give him as little time as possible because he can shoot from every angle and he knows where he's shooting too," Wings defenseman Andreas Lilja siad. "You try to watch his chest. You can't watch his head, because it just goes back and forth and you definitely cannot watch the puck because he's got a lot of sweet moves. You've got to watch him in the chest and try to aim for that."

And for a player not credited much for his defense, Kovalchuk made a good play in front of the net to stop a Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom, and then took the puck all the way down the ice to fire on goalie Dominik Hasek.

"He's explosive, his first couple steps are fast and he's got a good shot so you can't give him too much room or he's going to use that," Wings defenseman Brett Lebda said. "Just eliminating his time and space is the key. You don't know what he's going to do, so you have to be prepared for everything."

Later in the third, he showed off that speed on a breakaway, and had a rare miss on those opportunities clacking the puck off the post. Kovalchuk, never afraid to shoot the puck, is sixth in the league with 178 shots; 30 behind Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg who is second with 208.

Even late in the game that had been well decided, a missed shot frustrated the Thrashers' superstar.

"He's been our horse all year," Atlanta coach Don Waddell said. "He loves to score goals, we know that, but he's got a bigger passion to win hockey games. I thought tonight he gave us a great effort. He had a couple of chances to score, he didn't score but he gave us an effort in all areas of the game."

With all the attention paid to Kovalchuk, it was Hossa's night for the natural hat trick. With that one assist, however, Kovalchuk managed to put himself in a three-way tie for first place in scoring with 63 points along with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier.

Kovalchuk's passion to win not only affects his numbers, but now with a record of 23-22-2, Tuesday's win against the league's best team propelled Atlanta into first place tie with Carolina in the Southeast Division.

"We've got a lot of guys who can handle the puck, and it's great," Hossa said. "We have a lot of ups and down and we just have to focus on each game."

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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