GAME: Atlanta Thrashers (24-26-6) at Ottawa Senators (36-13-5).
TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
Marian Hossa spoiled Dany Heatley's return to Atlanta when the Thrashers routed the Ottawa Senators last month in the first meeting between the teams since they swapped star wings in the offseason.
Hossa now plays his first game where he used to call home as the Thrashers travel north to play the Ottawa Senators.
The 27-year-old Hossa was unable to come to contract terms with the Senators before the start of the season. The team was unable to depart from its salary structure to stay comfortably under the cap, but found a taker in the Thrashers. Atlanta was trying to accomodate Heatley's request for a trade following his personal problems resulting from a car accident Sept. 29, 2003, that killed teammate Dan Snyder.
The Senators signed Hossa, who was then surprised by the trade that sent him and defenseman Greg de Vries to the Thrashers for Heatley.
"It's going to be interesting," Hossa said about playing the Senators at home Thursday. "I'm sure at the beginning I'll be a little nervous."
Hossa has 28 goals and 65 points, forming a potent tandem with Ilya Kovalchuk as the Thrashers chase their first-ever playoff berth. They enter the game five points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Despite making the best of his new surroundings, Hossa admits there is still some lingering bitterness over the trade.
"I was kind of surprised the way (the Senators) handled the whole thing," Hossa said following the Thrashers' practice Wednesday. "They could have told me before, but they didn't."
Heatley has thrived being on the top line of the Senators, who are trying to bounce back from a listless 5-1 defeat Wednesday to the New York Rangers. Chris Kelly scored the lone goal for Ottawa, which is 2-3-1 in its last six games.
"They worked hard, they pressured us every time we got the puck," Senators coach Bryan Murray said. "We were real slow moving the puck out of our end."
Ottawa went 0-for-8 on the power play and has lost its last four games when it has failed to score with the man advantage. The Senators, though, have killed off 30 of their last 34 penalties in the last six games.
Goaltender Dominik Hasek, who did not start in the first game between the teams, is 3-0 with two shutouts and a 1.41 goals-against average in four lifetime appearances against the Thrashers.
STANDINGS: Thrashers - 54 points, 3rd place, 26 PB, Southeast Division. Senators - 77 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 36 goals and 71 points; Marc Savard, 46 assists; Andy Sutton, 104 PIM. Senators - Daniel Alfredsson, 34 goals and 73 points; Jason Spezza, 44 assists; Chris Neil, 135 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Thrashers - Power play: 19.6 percent (75 for 382), 6th in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.9 percent (280 for 355), 27th. Senators - Power play: 20.5 percent (69 for 336), 3rd. Penalty killing: 85.2 percent (287 for 337), 5th (tied).
GOALTENDERS: Thrashers - Kari Lehtonen (7-9-0, 1 SO, 3.08 GAA); Mike Dunham (4-4-1, 1, 2.79). Senators - Hasek (27-9-4, 5, 2.09); Ray Emery (9-4-1, 1, 3.13).
SEASON SERIES: Thrashers, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 2; Thrashers, 8-3. At Atlanta, Hossa scored two goals and Slava Kozlov had a hat trick for the Thrashers, who scored their eight goals on just 27 shots. Heatley scored Ottawa's last goal in his first game in Atlanta since being dealt to Ottawa for Hossa and de Vries.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Thrashers - 10-15-2 on the road; Senators - 21-5-1 at home.