Struggling to build on their first-ever playoff appearance, the Atlanta Thrashers face a Philadelphia Flyers club Tuesday that's playing nothing like the team that posted the NHL's worst record last season.
The Thrashers, the league's only winless team, will try to put an end that distinction when they take on the Flyers at the Wachovia Center.
Atlanta (0-5-0) won a franchise-record 43 games last season, capturing the Southeast Division to earn its first berth in the postseason since entering the league for the 1999-2000 season. The Thrashers, however, were swept in the first round by the New York Rangers, and that appears to have carried over to the first five games of this season.
Atlanta is allowing 4.6 goals per game and has been outscored 23-9. The Thrashers more than doubled their scoring output for the season in Saturday's 6-5 loss to New Jersey.
"It seems like every mistake the puck ends up in the back of our net," coach Bob Hartley said.
"We're playing tight, and it's going to take something big to turn this around. We need to get one win to gain confidence, because we're a very fragile hockey club."
Atlanta's penalty killing has been a big part of the problem, as the Thrashers have allowed 10 power-play goals on 30 chances. They gave up three goals on the power play for the second straight game Saturday.
"We're taking some bad penalties and our penalty killing is not good," Hartley said.
The Flyers (3-1-0), meanwhile, are off to a strong start after winning just 22 games last season. They did not have three wins in 2006-07 until Oct. 30.
"This is not last year's team," coach John Stevens said after Saturday's 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders. "There's just a totally different attitude in the locker room. There's no question it looked like a different team pulled it out."
Philadelphia signed center Daniel Briere, who matched his career high with 32 goals last season for Buffalo, in the offseason and picked up defenseman Jason Smith in a July deal with Edmonton. Briere leads the team with four goals and seven points, and Smith scored his first goal, an empty-netter, against the Islanders after blocking a shot in the final seconds.
"We want to create an identity for ourselves and we're on the right path," Briere said. "But we can't get too excited. It's only four games into the season."
Saturday's win kicked off a four-game homestand for the Flyers. Martin Biron stopped 29 shots and has yielded just nine goals while starting each of the first four games.
Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk scored two goals Saturday. Kovalchuk, who had 42 goals and 76 points last season, leads the Thrashers with three goals and four points, and his first goal was just Atlanta's second on the power play this season.
Saturday's defeat, though, was particularly disheartening for the Thrashers, who blew a 4-2 second-period lead after losing 6-0 in Buffalo in their previous game.
"We let the game get away from us because we stopped playing," said center Bobby Holik, who had a goal and an assist.
Marian Hossa missed his third straight game with a groin injury Saturday, but hopes to return against the Flyers. He had 43 goals and a career-high 100 points for Atlanta last season.
The Thrashers are 4-18-3 with three ties against the Flyers - 2-9-1 with two ties in Philadelphia - and have dropped six straight in the series since a 6-5 overtime win Nov. 18, 2005.