The way the Thrashers are going, they may not be there much longer.
Atlanta looks to end a season-high five-game losing streak when it faces San Jose at HP Pavilion.
Only the Thrashers' residence in the mediocre Southeast Division is keeping them in first place. Just one game above .500 with 43 points, Atlanta would be a fourth-place team if it was in four of the NHL's other five divisions.
Atlanta was held to one goal for the second consecutive game in their latest loss, 2-1 at Dallas on Thursday.
"They're an experienced team and they're tough to play against," said Ronald Petrovicky, who had the Thrashers' only goal. "We made a couple of mental mistakes there in the first period and it cost us a goal. That's the way it is lately. We have to be focused for 60 minutes."
One of the highest-scoring teams in the league with 122 goals, Atlanta has been held to two goals or fewer in seven of the last 11 games. Already missing star forward Dany Heatley, the Thrashers played Thursday without first-line center Marc Savard, who was scratched with a concussion.
Goaltender Pasi Nurminen hasn't been nearly as sharp as he was earlier this season, going 4-9-0 with a 3.39 goals-against average in his last 13 games. He was 11-5-3 with a 2.43 mark in his first 19 appearances.
San Jose's franchise-record, 11-game home unbeaten streak came to an end Thursday with a 3-2 overtime loss to Columbus.
Scott Thornton forced the extra period by scoring his second goal of the night with 57 seconds left in regulation, as the Sharks earned a point for the 12th straight home game (7-0-4-1).
"We didn't respect them the way we should," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "The worst thing that happened was we scored on the first shift, and we started playing a one-on-one game that's outside of our normal game. We ended up getting exactly what we deserved."
After San Jose missed the playoffs in 2002-03 for the first time since 1996-97, little was expected from the rebuilding team this season. However, a commitment to defense, combined with strong goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala has the Sharks atop the Pacific Division halfway through the season.
"I knew this would be a good hockey team," Wilson said. "The evolution of players, that in no way surprises me at all."