NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, March 18th
(All times eastern)
Ottawa Senators (37-28-5) at Atlanta Thrashers (29-29-11), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - A pair of struggling Eastern Conference inhabitants get
together for a key late-season matchup tonight at Philips Arena, where the
Atlanta Thrashers hope to strengthen their fading playoff hopes when they take
on the visiting Ottawa Senators.
Atlanta lost ground in the postseason race after a recent 0-5-1 stretch, but
did manage to bounce back with a much-needed 4-3 home win over Buffalo on
Tuesday. After allowing the Sabres to come back from an early 3-1 deficit, the
Thrashers went ahead to stay on Jim Slater's goal with 6:44 remaining in the
Tim Kennedy scored 7:02 into the final session to draw the Sabres even, but
Atlanta moved back in front just over six minutes later after Niclas Bergfors'
shot from the right boards hit off Slater's glove and trickled past Buffalo
goaltender Patrick Lalime.
"I just charged the net and it went right to me," said Slater. "I just did
what I like to do and got the goal."
Buffalo pulled Lalime late in the game for the extra attacker, but Atlanta was
able to keep the puck away from netminder Johan Hedberg on the way to the win.
Bergfors assisted on three of the Thrashers' four tallies on the night, while
Nik Antropov and Maxim Afinogenov both registered a goal and an assist for
Atlanta. Hedberg finished with 29 saves
The Thrashers still have some work to do in order to reach the playoffs for
only the second time in franchise history, as the club trails Boston by five
points for the No. 8 seed in the East.
Tuesday's triumph also benefited the Senators, who trail the Sabres by three
points for first place in the Northeast Division. Ottawa missed out on a
chance to close the gap, though, after dropping a 4-1 decision to cellar-
dwelling Toronto Tuesday at Scotiabank Place.
The loss was the Senators' third in a row and followed up a lopsided 5-1
setback at Vancouver on Saturday. Ottawa has gone just 1-5-1 since the Olympic
break and has scored one goal or less in each of those six defeats.
"These are points that we need and we know that," goaltender Brian Elliott
said after Tuesday's game. "We have to look at the tape and see what we did
Ottawa still stands fifth in the Eastern Conference standings with 79 points,
but rival Montreal is lurking just one point behind and seventh-place
Philadelphia is just two back of the Senators.
The Sens have also struggled in their last couple of meetings with the
Thrashers, losing both games by a combined 9-2 score earlier this season.
Atlanta came through with a 6-1 rout of Ottawa at Philips Arena back on
January 12 and is 5-2-0 in its last seven outings as the host in this series.
Tonight's test begins an important three-game road trip for the Senators, with
stops in Dallas and Montreal to follow. Ottawa has lost five of its last seven
away games and is a lackluster 14-18-1 as the visitor this season.
03/18 16:45:29 ET