NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, January 4th (All times eastern)
Carolina Hurricanes (20-18-4) at Atlanta Thrashers (20-20-1), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Thrashers will try to close the gap in the Southeast Division tonight, as they take on the front-running Carolina Hurricanes in the back end of a home-and-home set at Philips Arena.
The Thrashers defeated the Hurricanes, 5-4, in overtime on Wednesday to get within three points of Carolina, which leads the division with 44 points.
Marian Hossa's power-play goal with just 32 seconds left in overtime lifted the Thrashers at the RBC Center. With time winding down, Ilya Kovalchuk had the puck at the right circle and passed it down to the left side where a flying Hossa redirected it past Cam Ward for the win.
Kovalchuk netted his NHL-leading 33rd goal of the season and also had three assists, including the 200th of his career. Kovalchuk is tied for second in the league with 57 points and he has 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) over his last four games.
Mark Recchi continued his tear since coming over from Pittsburgh off waivers. The veteran forward had a goal and an assist to give him 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) in 12 games with Atlanta. He had just two goals and six assists in 19 games with the Penguins.
Johan Hedberg made 32 saves in the win, Atlanta's second in three games.
Eric Boulton left the game in the first period with a sprained knee and did not return. His status for tonight is unknown.
Atlanta recalled center Kevin Doell from Chicago of the AHL on Thursday and he is in line to become the sixth Thrasher to make his NHL debut this season when he hits the ice tonight.
The Thrashers open a five-game homestand tonight, their longest of the season, and are 10-9-0 as the host, having won four of their last five at Philips Arena.
It is no surprise that the Thrashers are gaining ground on the Hurricanes, seeing as Carolina has lost four of its last five including the setback to Atlanta.
Eric Staal and Ray Whitney each had a goal and an assist against the Thrashers, while Ward was lit up for five goals on 14 shots for the Hurricanes.
Whitney leads Carolina with 41 points (19g, 22a), while the club's leader in assists, Matt Cullen was one of three players placed on injured reserve by the club yesterday.
Cullen (illness) landed on IR along side David Tanabe (concussion) and Scott Walker (knee). In response, Carolina recalled goaltender Michael Leighton and forwards Keith Aucoin and Brandon Nolan from Albany of the AHL.
The Hurricanes play the first of three on the road, where they have lost three of their last four and are 10-10-2 on the season.
The Thrashers have won two of three against the Hurricanes this season, including the last two meetings as well as four of five and six of the last eight overall all.
Carolina, though, has won four of its last five trips to Atlanta.
01/04 10:37:02 ET