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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, April 6th (All times eastern)

Atlanta Thrashers (41-28-11) at Carolina Hurricanes (39-33-8), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Thrashers will try to move closer to the franchise's first-ever division title when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at RBC Center.

The Thrashers, who have already clinched the club's first playoff berth, are coming off a disappointing loss to the lowly Washington Capitals and head into Friday's action just one point ahead of Tampa Bay for the Southeast Division lead.

Both Atlanta and the Lightning have two games left and Tampa is hosting Florida tonight. If Florida beats Tampa in regulation and the Thrashers get a win against Carolina, then Atlanta will seal up the division crown. However, if the division title is still undecided after tonight, the Thrashers and Bolts will play for the title Saturday in Atlanta in the regular-season finale for both clubs. If the teams end the season tied, the Lightning will get the nod because of their superior win total.

Finishing first or second in the division will have huge ramifications in the Eastern Conference playoff race, as the team winning the Southeast will have the third seed and the second-place club will be in either the sixth or seventh slot.

The Thrashers were handed the 3-2 setback by the visiting Capitals on Wednesday, as Alexander Ovechkin burned Atlanta with a pair of goals.

Ilya Kovalchuk and Andy Sutton each had a goal and Kari Lehtonen made 23 saves for the Thrashers, who had won two straight coming into the contest.

Tonight's game is the final regular-season test on the road for the Thrashers, who are 19-16-5 as the visiting club this year.

Last year's Stanley Cup champion Hurricanes have been knocked out of postseason contention and are now reduced to a spoiler role. Carolina is the first team since the 1995-96 Devils to miss the playoffs after winning the Stanley Cup the previous season.

The Hurricanes were handed a close loss by Tampa Bay on Tuesday as Dan Boyle scored the game-winning goal early in the third period to lift the Lightning to a 3-2 victory at St. Pete Times Forum.

Rod Brind'Amour had a goal and an assist and Ray Whitney added a goal for the Hurricanes, who have dropped four of their last five tests. Cam Ward stopped 27 shots in the loss.

Tonight's game marks the opener of a season-ending two-game homestand for Carolina. The Hurricanes are 20-15-4 as the home club this season.

The Hurricanes hold a slight 4-3 edge over Atlanta in this year's season series and have taken eight of the last 13 meetings overall.

04/06 11:29:08 ET


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