NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, March 18th (All times eastern)
Atlanta Thrashers (31-35-8) at Philadelphia Flyers (35-28-10), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The reeling Philadelphia Flyers will try to get back on track tonight, when they welcome the Atlanta Thrashers for a matchup at the Wachovia Center.
The Flyers have lost four straight games and have seen their lead for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference shrink to just one point over Buffalo. The Sabres are idle tonight, as is Florida, which is two points behind the Flyers. Washington, though, is also just two points back and plays in Nashville tonight.
An end to the slump could be in the cards tonight, as the Flyers have won nine straight and 12 of their last 13 games against the Thrashers. Philadelphia is 3-0 against Atlanta this season and could post its second straight season sweep over the Thrashers with a win tonight.
Atlanta hasn't defeated the Flyers since posting an overtime win at Philadelphia on November 18, 2005. The Thrashers have lost three straight and seven of their last eight games in the City of Brotherly Love.
Philadelphia's most recent setback came in embarrassing fashion Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, as the Sidney Crosby-less Penguins slammed the Flyers, 7-1, at Mellon Arena. Petr Sykora and Evgeni Malkin each tallied two goals and two assists to lead the Pens.
Mike Knuble scored the only goal for Philadelphia and is now tied with Jeff Carter for the team lead with 27 tallies.
Martin Biron started and allowed three goals on eight shots before being pulled in favor of Antero Niittymaki, who stopped 24-of-28 shots.
On the injury front, the Flyers will be without defenseman Derian Hatcher for at least the rest of the regular season after he suffered a fractured tibia in Saturday's game at Boston. The 35-year-old Hatcher had just two goals and five assists this season, but was key physical presence on the Philadelphia blue line.
Tonight's test marks the opener of a three-game homestand for the Flyers, who are just 16-14-6 as the host this year. Philly will also welcome the Rangers and Islanders during the residency.
The Thrashers, meanwhile, have played themselves out of the playoffs over the past month, winning just twice in their last 14 games (2-8-4). Atlanta has dropped to 14th in the conference and is 10 points out of a playoff spot.
Atlanta was handed its second straight loss Sunday at Florida, as the Panthers notched the 3-1 decision at BankAtlantic Center.
Ilya Kovalchuk tallied his 49th goal of the season and Johan Hedberg stopped 22 shots for the Thrashers, who have dropped four of their last five contests.
Kovalchuk is one tally shy of his second career 50-goal season and three short of tying his personal best of 52 markers from the 2005-06 campaign.
The Thrashers are just 13-19-5 as the visiting team this year and are wrapping up a three-game road trip tonight. Atlanta has lost nine straight on the road and can tie the franchise record for consecutive away losses with another setback tonight. The Thrashers lost 10 straight on the road from October 6- November 18, 2001.
03/18 10:52:12 ET