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Power Rankings: Thrashers thrive as 'Chicago South'

by | CBSSports.com Staff Writer

Updated Nov. 29

Another week and we have another upstart team starting to make some real noise. And maybe that shouldn't be a surprise since under-the-radar types like the Coyotes, Blues and Avalanche have been doing that at various times this season.

Ondrej Pavelec has been strong in Atlanta's goal. (Getty Images)  
Ondrej Pavelec has been strong in Atlanta's goal. (Getty Images)  
All those have played a lot better than generally expected and now it is the Atlanta Thrashers joining the ranks. The Thrashers are currently on an impressive five-game winning streak that includes victories against the Capitals, Red Wings, Canadiens and Bruins by a combined score of 19-3 and an average of 39 shots fired per game. That's a lot of offense, and with Ondrej Pavelec becoming a brick wall in goal, the Thrashers are back in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

That's actually a heady place to be for a franchise that has been a longtime league doormat. Atlanta only went to the playoffs once in its first 10 seasons of play and the Thrashers were swept out of the first round in that one.

But this season is the start of a new era for Atlanta, with Rick Dudley becoming only the second general manager in team history and bringing some of the elements from his previous stop with the Blackhawks. The Thrashers have sometimes been called "Chicago South" this season because of the deal Dudley made to get Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager from the cap-strapped Stanley Cup champions, but the newcomers have all had important impacts.

Byfuglien, in particular, has been a standout, building on a great playoff run on Chicago's top line and taking his game to the next level in new coach Craig Ramsey's system while moving back to play his natural position on the blue line. Byfuglien, with nine points during Atlanta's current run, is the NHL's top scoring defenseman.

"Coming over with all the guys made it easier," Byfuglien said. "But the team is playing well and we're having fun while we're doing it."

Upstarts usually do. The rankings through Sunday night's games:


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