NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, March 27th (All times eastern)
Atlanta Thrashers (31-38-8) at Florida Panthers (36-32-9), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Florida's playoff chances took a big hit last time out. With their postseason hopes fading, the Panthers host the Atlanta Thrashers tonight at BankAtlantic Center.
With five games left to play, the Panthers are tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference with Buffalo, five points back of eighth-seeded Boston. However, both the Bruins and Sabres have a game in hand over Florida.
The Panthers faced the worst club in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday, but left Tampa Bay as 3-1 losers to take a split of a home-and-home set with the Lightning.
David Booth had the lone goal and Tomas Vokoun stopped 23-of-25 shots for Florida. The Panthers, who have not made the playoffs since 1999-2000, have dropped two of their last three games following a franchise-record tying seven-game win streak.
Jozef Stumpel returned to the Panthers after missing 23 games because of a shoulder ailment. He has 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists) in 47 games this year.
The Panthers play the first portion of their final two home games of the season tonight and have won six of their last seven as the host. Overall, Florida is 18-13-8 at home and closes out the year on a three-game road trip.
Florida will also be trying for its fifth straight win over Atlanta after dropping its first two tests against the Thrashers this year, though the Thrashers have posted a win in eight of the last 14 meetings. The Panthers have won four of the last five as the host against Atlanta.
Nathan Horton has four goals against Atlanta this year, while Olli Jokinen (1g, 5a) and Brett McLean (2g, 4a) have six points each against them. Vokoun is 4-1-0 with a 2.33 goals-against average in five tests versus the Thrashers this season.
Atlanta has lost 15 of its last 17, and has the second fewest point total in the East with 70. The Thrashers were last in action on Friday and were defeated by the Washington Capitals, 5-3.
Jim Slater scored twice and Tobias Enstrom also lit the lamp for the Thrashers, who have dropped their last five games. Kari Lehtonen finished the game with 40 saves.
The Thrashers open a three-game road trip tonight and have matched their franchise-worst losing streak on the road of 10 games. That mark was first set from October 6-November 18, 2001.
Atlanta is 13-20-5 on the road this year and also travel to Carolina and Tampa Bay on this trek.
Ilya Kovalchuk, who is second in the NHL with 50 goals, has totaled 11 points against Florida this year in the form of seven goals and four assists, shooting 33.3 percent against the club.
03/27 10:46:31 ET