TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EDT.
Despite being four points back of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with four games left, the Atlanta Thrashers are optimistic they will reach the postseason for the first time.
The Thrashers look for their third straight victory when they host the last-place Washington Capitals.
"With a win Thursday, we're seriously in the ballgame and anything can happen," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "You ride a tough streak, you want to get out of it. You ride a good streak, you want to keep going. Right now, the boys are on a mission. We're getting commitment from everyone."
The Thrashers have earned a point in four straight games (3-0-1) after Tuesday's 6-2 win over Tampa Bay, the team Atlanta is trying to catch for the conference's eighth seed.
"Every game is huge and every win is big, certainly when you can close the gap on the team you're chasing," Atlanta goaltender Mike Dunham said.
Dunham made 32 saves to win his second straight start in place of Kari Lehtonen, who is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with a sprained left ankle.
"Every guy in the room right now believes that we can do it," said defenseman Andy Sutton, who along with Bobby Holik score twice Tuesday. "If we were to get in, I don't think there's a team in the league that would want to play us, especially the way we've been playing down the stretch. I'd like to see it get interesting."
After hosting the Capitals, the Thrashers play their final home game on Saturday against Boston before closing the regular season with contests in Washington Monday and Florida on Tuesday.
The Capitals, who have the NHL's fourth-lowest point total, snapped a four-game skid with Monday's 2-1 overtime win at Boston. Alex Ovechkin broke a six-game goal drought and became the sixth NHL rookie to reach 100 points when he scored his 49th goal of the season 3:30 into overtime.
The 20-year-old left winger has four games left to join Teemu Selanne as the only rookies to have 50 goals and 100 points.
"I tried not to think about it," Ovechkin said of reaching 100 points. "I'm happy right now."
STANDINGS: Capitals - 64 points, 5th place, 45 PB, Southeast Division. Thrashers - 85 points, 3rd place, 24 PB, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Capitals - Ovechkin, 49 goals, 51 assists and 100 points; Chris Clark, 108 PIM. Thrashers - Ilya Kovalchuk, 51 goals and 97 points; Marc Savard, 67 assists; Sutton, 138 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Capitals - Power play: 14.8 percent (69 for 466), 27th in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.4 percent (413 for 527), 29th. Thrashers - Power play: 19.5 percent (99 for 507), 5th. Penalty killing: 79.0 percent (372 for 471), 26th.
GOALTENDERS: Capitals - Olaf Kolzig (19-27-11, 3.51 GAA); Brent Johnson (7-12-1, 1 SO, 3.68). Thrashers - Dunham (6-4-2, 1, 2.43); Michael Garnett (10-7-4, 2, 3.44).
SEASON SERIES: Thrashers, 4-2.
LAST MEETING: March 4; Thrashers, 3-2 (OT). At Atlanta, Ovechkin's goal with 26 seconds left in regulation tied it, but Marian Hossa scored 1:49 into the extra session for the Thrashers.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Capitals - 11-22-5 on the road; Thrashers - 22-13-4 at home.
|Apr 17 '06||ATL 4 at WSH 6||B. Willsie|
|Apr 13 '06||WSH 3 at ATL 5||M. Hossa|
|Mar 04 '06||WSH 2 at ATL 3 - OT||M. Hossa|
|Jan 01 '06||ATL 5 at WSH 2||S. Mellanby|
|Dec 22 '05||WSH 6 at ATL 5 - SO||A. Ovechkin|
|Nov 04 '05||ATL 2 at WSH 3 - SO||A. Ovechkin|
|Oct 08 '05||WSH 1 at ATL 8||G. De Vries|
|Oct 07 '05||ATL 7 at WSH 3||M. Savard|