The Thrashers (16-7-4) will be trying to win their fourth straight game and match their longest run of the season. The Panthers (8-14-5) have lost a season-high five in a row, suffering shutouts in their last three games.
Atlanta has also won four in a row over Florida, and the Thrashers can relate how frustrating it can be to be dominated by one team. They had lost eight straight meetings with Toronto since Nov. 27, 2003 before a 5-0 victory over the host Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.
Atlanta had been outscored 37-9 during the losing streak to Toronto.
"We sent them a message that we're not going to accept it anymore," Atlanta's Slava Kozlov said after finishing with four assists.
For the Panthers to end their slide against the Thrashers, they'll have to cool off an Atlanta club that has outscored them 17-5 in the season series - including two shutouts.
Another goalless game Saturday would hardly be unfamiliar for Florida, which has not scored in 201 minutes, 31 seconds. The team's dismal three-game road trip ended Thursday with a 6-0 loss to Ottawa after falling 1-0 in the first two games - one of which was at Atlanta last Saturday to open the trip.
Florida tied its season high in goals allowed against the Senators.
"(Thursday), We were just out of sync the whole night," Panthers forward Gary Roberts said. "Not much to build on, so we've got a long day (Friday) to try and recover and play at home Saturday night."
The Panthers are in the midst of their longest winless streak since going 0-6-1 from March 19-29, 2003.
After enduring a four-game skid earlier this month, the Thrashers are 4-0-1 in their last five games. That's been due in part to the red-hot Lehtonen, who has a shutout in two of his three appearances during the four-game win streak. He made 36 saves Thursday.
Lehtonen has both of the Thrashers' shutouts of Florida this season and has four overall in 2006-07. He stopped 37 shots in last weekend's 1-0 victory over Florida, and is 9-1-0 with a 1.83 goals-against average and three shutouts in 11 starts against the Panthers.
Lehtonen outplayed counterpart Alex Auld last Saturday, and Ilya Kovalchuk had a first-period goal to lift the Thrashers.
After going pointless in four straight games, Marian Hossa has recorded four points in each of his last two contests. His three-goal, one-assist performance Thursday marked the 12th time in his career Hossa has finished with at least four points, and gave him the most goals (20) and points (39) in the NHL.
"It felt nice," Hossa said of his fifth career hat trick. "If I get two goals or three goals, that's fine, but I'm just happy the team won."
Hossa, Kovalchuk and Kozlov have each totaled seven points in the four meetings with Florida this season. Hossa and Kovalchuk have five goals and two assists apiece, and Kozlov has a goal and six assists.
The Thrashers have won four in a row twice previously, most recently from Nov. 3-8.
While Lehtonen has been outstanding of late, Auld has struggled. The goalie has lost each of his last two outings 1-0, but allowed a season high-tying five goals on 17 shots in 26:01 before being pulled. Auld, who has lost four straight, is 1-9-2 with a 3.59 GAA average in 12 starts since Oct. 18.
He has posted a 3.44 GAA in the three games against Atlanta this season.
|Mar 28 '07||ATL 2 at FLA 3 - SO||N. Horton|
|Mar 10 '07||ATL 2 at FLA 3||J. Bouwmeester|
|Mar 06 '07||FLA 2 at ATL 4||I. Kovalchuk|
|Dec 02 '06||ATL 3 at FLA 1||G. Metropolit|
|Nov 25 '06||FLA 0 at ATL 1||I. Kovalchuk|
|Oct 23 '06||ATL 6 at FLA 3||S. Mellanby|
|Oct 21 '06||FLA 2 at ATL 4||I. Kovalchuk|
|Oct 07 '06||FLA 0 at ATL 6||J. Sim|