NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, April 7th
(All times eastern)
Tampa Bay Lightning (44-33-4) at Atlanta Thrashers (42-28-11), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Although their Southeast Division title hopes have
disappeared, the Tampa Bay Lightning can still try to improve their playoff
seeding tonight, when they visit the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena in the
final regular-season test for both teams.
The Thrashers clinched the Southeast crown on Friday evening, as they defeated
Carolina, 4-1, and Florida pounded Tampa Bay, 7-2. However, if the Lightning
beat Atlanta and the New York Rangers lose in regulation at Pittsburgh
tonight, then Tampa will take over the sixth seed in the postseason from the
Blueshirts. That would mean Atlanta and Tampa would meet in the first round of
the playoffs and the Rangers would face the Devils in the opening round.
Atlanta took care of its own business on Friday night as it defeated last
year's Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes. Backup netminder Johan
Hedberg made 32 saves to help the Thrashers seal the third seed in the
playoffs and win their first-ever division title. Atlanta also assured itself
of having home-ice advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference
Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 41st goal of the season for the Thrashers, while
Pascal Dupuis, Marian Hossa and Eric Belanger also tallied in the victory.
The Thrashers are a solid 22-12-6 as the home club this year and have taken
eight of their last 10 at Philips Arena.
Meanwhile, the Lightning were destroyed by the Panthers on Friday as they fell
behind 4-0 in the first period and never recovered in the 7-2 loss. Ollie
Jokinen scored his 38th goal of the season and also had an assist to continue
his domination against Tampa Bay. Jokinen has played all eight games against
Tampa Bay this season, totaling four goals and eight assists.
Jason Ward and Nick Tarnasky scored for the Lightning, who had their three-
game winning streak snapped. Johan Holmqvist surrendered four goals on just 12
shots for Tampa Bay before giving way to Marc Denis, who finished out the
contest with 17 saves.
Tampa Bay has a strong 22-15-3 record as the visiting team this year.
The Lightning have won five of the seven matchups with the Thrashers this year
and taken eight of the last 11 meetings overall. Tampa has also been
victorious in six of its last eight trips to Atlanta.
04/07 10:56:48 ET