NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Friday, March 11th
(All times eastern)
New Jersey Devils (30-32-4) at Atlanta Thrashers (28-28-11), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Thrashers are hoping they are getting on track after a
prolonged slump. The Devils are coming off a rare regulation loss that put
another dent in their playoff chances.
Atlanta looks to win three in a row for the first time since late November,
while New Jersey tries to bounce back from just its fifth loss in 25 games
this evening at Philips Arena.
The Thrashers lost 11 of 13 prior to consecutive wins over Florida and
Carolina. Wednesday's triumph over the Hurricanes was a big one as Carolina is
one of the teams ahead of Atlanta in the Eastern Conference standings. The
Thrashers are currently 11th in the East and seven points back of a playoff
New Jersey is three points behind Atlanta in the standings thanks to its
current 20-3-2 stretch.
Rob Schremp and Tobias Enstrom scored in the first period for the Thrashers on
Wednesday, but Atlanta couldn't hold the lead and needed Tim Stapleton's goal
1:38 into overtime to secure the 3-2 victory. Ondrej Pavelec, who made a nice
save right before Stapleton's goal, ended with 35 saves.
Atlanta was without star blueliner Dustin Byfuglien due to a lower-body injury
suffered in practice on Monday and he is questionable for tonight after
missing his first game of the season. Forward Radek Dvorak will also be a
game-time decision along with Byfuglien due to an ailing hamstring.
The Thrashers could use their high-scoring defenseman seeing as they have
dropped six of their last nine on the road, but have won two in a row for the
first time since Jan. 2-5. They haven't claimed three straight victories since
a six-game run from Nov. 19-30.
They won't find the Devils a pushover as the surging club aims to keep its
playoff hopes alive. New Jersey had a four-game winning streak end on Tuesday
with a 2-1 setback to Ottawa.
Patrik Elias had the Devils' goal and Martin Brodeur made 19 saves for the
Devils, who hit the road having won seven of their last eight as the guest.
"Every loss is crucial at this point and especially for us given the situation
we are in," Elias said. "We just have to bounce back. We have to play a little
more upbeat, play with a little more energy and control the game more."
The Devils notched a 3-1 home win when these teams last met on Dec. 31, giving
New Jersey a victory in four of the past five matchups.
The Thrashers halted a six-game series home losing streak to the Devils on
Dec. 18 with a big 7-1 win, fueled by Eric Boulton's hat trick and 26 saves
The clubs will wrap their season set in New Jersey on Tuesday.
Ilya Kovalchuk will face Atlanta for the fourth time since getting dealt by
the club to New Jersey prior to last season's trade deadline. Made the top
pick of the 2001 draft by the Thrashers, Kovalchuk has scored in both meetings
this year and makes his third trip back to Philips Arena.
Kovalchuk has a point in 16 of his past 19 games overall, totaling 11 goals
and 22 points in that span.
03/11 10:57:11 ET