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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, January 17th (All times eastern)

Montreal Canadiens (23-14-8) at Atlanta Thrashers (23-22-2), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Now that the Atlanta Thrashers have jumped into first place in the Southeast Division they will try to keep headed in the right direction, as they welcome the Montreal Canadiens for tonight's test at Philips Arena.

The Carolina Hurricanes held sole possession of first place in the Southeast for most of the year, but now share the top spot with the Thrashers. Both teams have 48 points and are just four ahead of third-place Florida.

The Thrashers have won their last two games and are coming off Tuesday's impressive victory in Detroit. Marian Hossa recorded a natural hat trick as the Thrashers posted a 5-1 victory over the Red Wings, who lead the NHL with 70 points this season.

Eric Perrin and Slava Kozlov also scored while Kari Lehtonen finished the game with 46 saves for the Thrashers. Atlanta won for the first time in five tries in Detroit and has won two straight over the Red Wings after losing the first seven games in the series.

The Thrashers' Ilya Kovalchuk finished the game with an assist and now has 63 points, which is tied with Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the top spot in the league.

Kovalchuk has also registered a point in 10 straight games, posting eight goals and eight assists over that span.

Atlanta is 12-11-1 as the host this year, but has lost three of its last five tests on home ice.

The Canadiens have won three of their last four games and are coming off Tuesday's road win over the New York Islanders. Tomas Plekanec scored two goals to lead the Habs to the 3-1 decision at Nassau Coliseum.

Cristobal Huet made 17 saves for the Canadiens and improved to 6-1-1 in his last eight starts. Alex Kovalev netted an empty-net goal in the victory.

Tonight's test marks the end of a four-game road trip for the Canadiens, who have an excellent 15-7-3 mark away from Montreal this year. The Habs will return home for Saturday's contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Thrashers have taken three in a row from Montreal, including both meetings this season. The Canadiens have also lost two straight and three of their last four tilts in Atlanta.

01/17 10:42:12 ET

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