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Saturday, January 9th (All times eastern)

Washington Capitals (26-11-6) at Atlanta Thrashers (19-18-6), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - After finally putting an end to a lengthy losing streak in their last outing, the Atlanta Thrashers now aim to obtain some rare recent success against the Washington Capitals when the two Southeast Division members get together tonight at Philips Arena.

The division-leading Capitals have won four straight and six of the last seven meetings between the teams, two of which occurred in Atlanta earlier this season. In the most recent matchup, superstar Alex Ovechkin scored twice and added an assist to lead Washington to a 4-3 decision on October 29.

Ovechkin netted his 27th goal of the season in the Capitals' last game, a 5-2 triumph over Ottawa Thursday at the Verizon Center, but took a back seat to teammate Nicklas Backstrom for No. 1 star honors.

Backstrom scored two third-period goals that gave Washington a comfortable 4-1 advantage and added an assist earlier in the game to lead his team to its second straight victory following a three-game slide.

"He showed a lot of leadership, because I thought we were floundering in the second period when it was 2-1, and then he comes out in the third period and gets two goals," head coach Bruce Boudreau told the Capitals' official site of Backstrom. "He was just determined, and that's what is making him one of the best."

The Thrashers, who currently sit second in the Southeast standings but trail the Caps by 14 points, got a four-game homestand off to a very encouraging start with Thursday's 2-1 shootout verdict over the New York Rangers. The win halted a nine-game skid for Atlanta, the club's longest since October 11-29, 2002.

Bryan Little snapped a shot past Rangers netminder Chad Johnson in the fifth round of the shootout to give the Thrashers an edge, and Atlanta prevailed when New York's Michael Del Zotto's ensuing bid missed the net.

The Thrashers trailed 1-0 until Jim Slater scored off a feed from Pavel Kubina with just over six minutes elapsed in the third period. Goaltender Johan Hedberg kept the game close by stopping 29-of-30 shots, then thwarted four of the five skaters he faced in the shootout phase.

"We did a lot of things well tonight," Hedberg said. "We deserve this win. We've been working for it for a long time."

Atlanta may be able to get a further boost tonight in the possible return of Nik Antropov to the lineup. The team's top-line center, who ranks third among Thrashers players with 36 points, has sat out the last two games with a hip injury.

Washington starts up a three-game road trip against fellow Southeast Division foes this evening. The Capitals are a respectable 12-8-3 on the road this season, but have lost their last two times out as the guest.

01/09 11:34:59 ET


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