NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, March 7th (All times eastern)
Carolina Hurricanes (26-31-7) at Atlanta Thrashers (28-25-10), 5 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Playing at home has been good as of late for the Atlanta Thrashers, who head back to Philips Arena tonight to take on the Carolina Hurricanes in a Southeast Division showdown.
Atlanta has won its last three tests as the host team and returned from the NHL's break for the Winter Olympics to post consecutive home victories over Florida and the New York Islanders. With a win this evening, the Thrashers will have recorded their longest winning streak at Philips Arena since a seven-game tear from March 2-18, 2007.
The Thrashers' home success bodes well for a possible postseason berth, as they will play seven of their next eight games in Atlanta. The club is currently tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference with 66 points, but just two behind Montreal for the eighth and final playoff seed.
Atlanta had gone 4-0-2 over its last six overall outings before stumbling at Tampa Bay last night, with the Lightning coming away with a 6-2 win behind a three-goal first period. Thrashers goaltender Johan Hedberg was victimized for all six goals on 30 shots and had a personal three-start winning streak halted.
"Everybody knows the situation (about the playoffs) and we have to be more aware when we're out there," forward Nik Antropov remarked afterward.
On a positive note, Niclas Bergfors scored one of Atlanta's two goals and continued his strong play since coming over from New Jersey as part of the February 4 trade that sent All-Star wing Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils. The young Swede has now netted six goals in seven games since the swap.
Although the Hurricanes are a longshot to reach the postseason after dealing away a number of veteran players at Wednesday's trade deadline, they've still been a handful for opposing teams recently. Carolina had ripped off a season- best seven straight wins before Saturday's 4-1 loss to Florida, and dealt the Thrashers a 5-2 defeat in their most recent trip to Philips Arena back on January 21.
Hurricanes captain Eric Staal had a hat trick in that game and has amassed 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) over his last 18 contests. Forward Jussi Jokinen, who accounted for Carolina's lone score in last night's setback, has racked up 14 goals and nine assists over that same stretch.
Goaltender Manny Legace has also been on a strong run since taking over for the injured Cam Ward as the Hurricanes' main backstop. The veteran has won his last four starts and surrendered just eight goals during that span.
Rookie Justin Peters was between the pipes for Saturday's game and received his first NHL loss after allowing three goals on 29 shots. The 23-year-old had gone 3-0-0 with an outstanding 1.34 goals against average over his first three starts.
Atlanta had won the first two season meetings between these divisional foes before that January 21 home loss, but Carolina has prevailed in six of its last eight matchups as the visitor in this series.
03/07 10:33:46 ET