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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Saturday, February 5th (All times eastern)

Atlanta Thrashers (24-21-9) at Carolina Hurricanes (25-21-6), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Eighth place in the Eastern Conference will be on the line this evening as both the Atlanta Thrashers and Carolina Hurricanes will be looking to avoid a third straight loss in this matchup at RBC Center.

The Thrashers come into this game with 57 points, one more than the Hurricanes, despite having gone just 2-6-3 in their last 11 games. Carolina has failed to take advantage of Atlanta's struggles, losing five of its last eight.

Not only are the two teams close in the standings, they have also played two tight contests this season. The Hurricanes won both meetings beyond regulation, with Sergei Samsonov notching the shootout winner on Dec. 16 (3-2) before Erik Cole's overtime clincher at Carolina on Jan. 9 (4-3).

The 'Canes have won three straight and five of the past six meetings overall and snapped a three-game series home losing streak in January.

"Both teams have been coming back to earth from their start," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice told his team's website on Friday. "I think we felt we were getting better and stronger and have stumbled here a little bit. It will be a very emotional game, it will be a very physical game, and I think it's going to be a very fast game."

Maurice's club will be aiming to rebound from a 3-0 loss on Thursday in Toronto. Cam Ward made 38 saves, but the Hurricanes were shutout for the fourth time this year.

Carolina had scored 12 goals in its previous three games and will try to avoid dropping three in a row for the first time since Dec. 20-26.

"I don't think our effort was terrible but I don't think it was good enough," Hurricanes captain Eric Staal said. "We need to be at our best consistently or we don't get the results."

Ward is 16-8-2 with a 3.05 goals-against average in his career versus the Thrashers.

Carolina could have passed Atlanta in the standings on Thursday, when Atlanta dropped a 4-2 decision to Calgary. The Thrashers have been outscored 15-5 in their last four games.

Bryan Little and Anthony Stewart notched goals for the Thrashers, who have been held to a pair of goals or less in eight of their last nine games. Ondrej Pavelec stopped 20 shots in defeat.

"We didn't cash in our opportunities," said Atlanta head coach Craig Ramsay. "We keep allowing everyone to just stay close. Earlier in the year, we were winning those close games but now, we're finding a way to make that key turnover."

On the same day Atlanta placed defenseman Tobias Enstrom on injured reserve, retroactive to January 22, due to a fractured finger, blueliner Freddy Meyer collapsed at center ice after taking a pair of hits from Calgary players. Though Meyer did briefly lose consciousness, he did skate off the ice and his status for this game is unknown.

Pavelec is 2-3-1 with a 4.01 GAA in his career versus the Hurricanes.

02/05 11:03:54 ET

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