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Thrashers-Senators Preview

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:47 AM

Associated Press

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Thrashers-Senators Preview
Atlanta Thrashers vs. Ottawa Senators

GAME: Atlanta Thrashers (36-31-6) at Ottawa Senators (49-17-7).

TIME: Monday, 7:30 p.m. EDT.

The Atlanta Thrashers hope another win over one of the NHL's best teams will move them closer to their first-ever postseason appearance.

The Thrashers visit the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators one game after beating the second-place Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 on Saturday.

Atlanta is ninth place in the East, five points behind Tampa Bay for the eighth and final spot. The Thrashers have nine games remaining and are just one point ahead of 10th-place Florida.

"It's tough, because if you lose, you obviously lose ground, and if you win, you stay there," said Thrashers coach Bob Hartley, whose team is 13-6 since a season-high seven-game losing streak. "We just have to keep winning games and hope teams start getting in trouble."

Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice to lead Atlanta to Saturday's win over its Southeast Division rival while goaltender Kari Lehtonen made 33 saves. The Thrashers, who were outshot 35-26 by the Hurricanes, have been outshot by an average margin of 10.5 shots the last four games.

"The most important thing was to win the game," said Kovalchuk, who has three goals and three assists in three games against Ottawa this season. "We have to play our best hockey and play every game like it is the last game."

Marc Savard is playing the best hockey of his career. The first-line center scored midway through the first period on a penalty shot for his 89th point, tying Dany Heatley's single-season franchise record set in 2002-03.

Heatley spent his first three seasons with the Thrashers before being traded to Ottawa before the start of this season in a deal that sent Marian Hossa to Atlanta. Heatley is having a career-best season with 43 goals and 48 assists, but has registered just one goal against the Thrashers.

Despite taking 46 shots, the Senators were blanked 1-0 Saturday by the Washington Capitals. Ottawa outshot Washington 46-32 - including 16-4 in the third period - but could not avoid its first shutout in two months.

"It's one of those nights where you just walk away and shake your head," said Senators coach Brian Murray, whose team has lost three of its last four games.

Ray Emery made 31 saves, but couldn't stop Dainius Zubrus' power-play goal at the end of the second period. He has split two starts against the Thrashers this season, giving up a season-high eight goals Jan. 2 in an 8-3 loss before bouncing back March 10 with a 3-1.

Ottawa has already clinched its ninth consecutive trip to the playoffs and will post its second 50-win season with its next victory.

The Thrashers will start a three-game road trip in Ottawa, where they have won their last two.

STANDINGS: Thrashers - 78 points, 3rd place, 24 PB, Southeast Division. Senators - 105 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 47 goals; Savard, 62 assists and 89 points; Andy Sutton, 124 PIM. Senators - Heatley, 43 goals; Jason Spezza, 59 assists; Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson, 91 points; Chris Neil, 172 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Thrashers - Power play: 18.9 percent (91 for 481), 8th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.8 percent (356 for 446), 24th. Senators - Power play: 20.7 percent (91 for 439), 2nd. Penalty killing: 86.4 percent (374 for 433), 2nd.

GOALTENDERS: Thrashers - Lehtonen (19-14-0, 2 SO, 2.85 GAA); Mike Dunham (4-4-1, 1, 2.71). Senators - Emery (21-7-3, 3, 2.53); Mike Morrison (10-4-2, 2.80).

SEASON SERIES: Thrashers, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: March 10; Senators, 3-1. At Atlanta, Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Kelly and Bryan Smolinski all scored in the first 5:02 of the game, while Emery made 16 saves to lead the Senators.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Thrashers - 15-18-2 on the road; Senators - 27-7-2 at home.

2005-2006 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 03 '06 ATL 4 at OTT 6 B. Smolinski
Mar 10 '06 OTT 3 at ATL 1 C. Kelly
Feb 09 '06 ATL 2 at OTT 1 A. Sutton
Jan 02 '06 OTT 3 at ATL 8 M. Hossa