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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Wednesday, March 24th (All times eastern)

Washington Capitals (22-43-9-2) at Atlanta Thrashers (30-34-8-4), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Two teams headed for an early offseason clash for the second time in five days tonight when the Atlanta Thrashers welcome the Washington Capitals to Philips Arena.

Last Saturday, Andy Sutton scored two goals, including the tying tally with 43 seconds left in the third period, to help the Thrashers skate to a 2-2 tie with the Caps at the MCI Center.

Pasi Nurminen stopped just 16 shots for the Thrashers, who are 3-1-1 in their last five games.

Sutton snapped a wrister from the blue line that got past goalie Olaf Kolzig for the equalizer. Kolzig, who appeared screened on the shot, did not make a clean save as the puck went off his glove and trickled into the cage with 19:17 gone by in the third.

Atlanta managed 14 shots on net in the third period, and outshot the Capitals 4-1 in overtime. The Thrashers managed a whopping 20 shots in the second frame.

Thrashers star Ilya Kovalchuk did not score Saturday, but remains the NHL leader with 39 goals. He is one tally ahead of Columbus' Rick Nash and Calgary's Jarome Iginla. Kovalchuk is trying to reach the 40-goal plateau for the first time in his career, as the high in his first two seasons was 38 last year.

Atlanta, 4-1-0-2 in its last seven home games, will host New Jersey on Friday.

Washington has played since Saturday, falling, 3-0, to the host NY Islanders on Tuesday. Rick DiPietro made 17 saves and the Isles received goals from three different players in the win.

Kolzig allowed three goals on 19 shots in two periods before giving way to Matthew Yeats, who stopped all 14 shots he faced. The Caps saw their brief two-game unbeaten streak come to an end (1-0-1).

With 55 points, Washington is 14th in the Eastern Conference standings -- four ahead of last-place Pittsburgh.

The Caps were shut out for the fifth time this season, but three of those games have occurred this month.

Washington, which has lost four straight road outings and is 1-6-1 in its last eight contests overall, will visit Southeast Division-champion Tampa Bay on Saturday.

The Caps and Thrashers are 2-2-1 against each other this season, but Washington is 10-4-3 in the last 17 meetings overall.

03/24 10:17:08 ET

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