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Tampa Bay
Lightning
31-42-9
Atlanta
Thrashers
34-40-8

34 SOG
24 SOG
1st2nd3rdT
TBL
ATL
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Lightning-Thrashers Preview

Tuesday, 12.18.2007 / 7:00 PM

Associated Press

The Atlanta Thrashers have been plagued by poor defense all season. To snap their current skid, they'll try to take advantage of a club that's had almost as much trouble stopping opponents.

After giving up their highest goal total in more than a year, the Thrashers look to halt their four-game losing streak on Tuesday when they host the Southeast Division rival Tampa Bay Lightning.

Atlanta (14-17-1) has given up 22 goals over its last four games, including a season high in Saturday's 7-3 loss at Ottawa. The Thrashers hadn't given up that many goals since they were shut out 8-0 at Tampa Bay on Dec. 7, 2006.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice as Atlanta tried to get back into the game, but couldn't overcome a 3-1 deficit after the first period.

"When we gave up that early goal, we became very fragile," Thrashers coach Don Waddell said. "We had opportunities to close the gap, and at 5-3 we had the power play and we couldn't score so that was a killer for us."

The Thrashers have struggled to prevent goals despite the solid play of 13th-year defenseman Ken Klee, who joined the club as a free agent in the offseason. He has three points - all assists - this season, and has made a number of intangible contributions in his first 31 games with Atlanta.

"(Klee) has done a good job," Waddell told the Thrashers' official Web site. "Ken's maybe not the fastest guy in the world but he certainly can read plays. He has good hockey sense, and he's a good guy to have in your lineup, he's a good guy in the locker room. He's done everything that we've asked him to do."

Atlanta has lost four straight for the second time this season, as it dropped its first six games of 2007-08.

Waddell's club will try to get back on track against a Tampa Bay (14-16-3) team which has also struggled defensively. After allowing a season-high goal total in a 9-6 loss to Calgary on Thursday, the Lightning defense played a bit better Saturday against Washington. The offense couldn't take advantage, however, as Tampa Bay fell 3-2.

Vincent Lecavalier tied the game at two 5:50 into the second period, but Shane O'Brien was called for high-sticking to set up Washington's game-winning goal in the third.

"We can't continue to take penalties," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. "We're taking too many penalties. (O'Brien's) got to be responsible with that stick. He's had a problem with that all year."

The Lightning won these teams' first two meetings this season, but the Thrashers have evened the series with back-to-back wins of their own. Kovalchuk has five goals and two assists in the four games against Tampa Bay this season, including a hat trick in Atlanta's 6-4 victory Nov. 3.

Tampa Bay's Vaclav Prospal has recorded a point in six straight games against the Thrashers, including all four meetings this season. He has four goals and four assists against them in 2007-08.

The Lightning own the worst road record in the league at 3-11-1. They did, however, win their last road contest, beating Montreal 3-2 in a shootout last Tuesday.

2007-2008 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 05 '08TBL 1 at ATL 4C. Armstrong
Mar 31 '08ATL 2 at TBL 0I. Kovalchuk
Feb 09 '08TBL 1 at ATL 2 - OTA. Zhitnik
Dec 18 '07TBL 2 at ATL 6V. Kozlov
Nov 19 '07TBL 3 at ATL 4 - OTT. White
Nov 03 '07ATL 6 at TBL 4P. Dupuis
Oct 20 '07ATL 2 at TBL 6V. Lecavalier
Oct 06 '07ATL 2 at TBL 5B. Richards
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%