If the Atlanta Thrashers are serious about challenging for the top spot in the Southeast Division, they'll need to at least put the puck on net.
Coming off perhaps the worst offensive performance in franchise history, the Thrashers will try again to inch closer to the top spot in the Southeast Division when they meet the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.
Atlanta (29-28-4) is in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, but is just three points behind Southeast-leading Carolina (30-28-5). Overtaking the Hurricanes would bump the Thrashers up to third in the East.
|Thrashers forward Ilya Kovalchuk, left, and Hurricanes defenseman Casey Borer are set to battle for important Southeast Division points tonight. Atlanta trails Carolina by only three points for first place in the highly-competitive division. (AP Photo/John Amis)|
The Thrashers have won five straight at the RBC Center, including 5-4 in overtime on Jan. 2 when they had just 14 shots on goal. It was only the fifth win in 25 games for Atlanta when it records 15 shots or less.
On Saturday, the Thrashers had a franchise-low 10 shots on goal and also had their three-game winning streak snapped in a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders. Todd White's power-play goal with 77 seconds left in the game helped Atlanta avoid being shut out.
"It's very frustrating," Thrashers coach Don Waddell said. "Complacency is a fair statement. We have some success, and we seem to have a hard time dealing with it."
This is the third stop of a five-game road trip for the Thrashers, who are 13-14-2 away from home this season. Atlanta isn't likely to look past Thursday's game, with a second straight Southeast title likely being its best chance to earn a playoff berth.
Carolina, meanwhile, will be playing the second game of a season-high six-game homestand. The Hurricanes lost 3-2 in a shootout with Boston on Tuesday night, snapping a four-game winning streak at home where they're 15-11-3 this season.
Ray Whitney and Erik Cole scored in the final 63 seconds of regulation to tie it for Carolina. Whitney (groin) and Cole (flu) were back in the lineup after missing a 5-1 loss at New Jersey on Monday.
But the flu continues to plague the Hurricanes, who were given Wednesday off.
"We are closing the locker room down and keeping everybody away from the rink," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said
Carolina needs its roster as healthy as possible with just 19 regular-season games remaining, especially after losing center Rod Brind'Amour for the season with a torn left ACL last week.
Eric Staal, who has played in all 63 games this season, leads Carolina with 29 goals and is second with 54 points. He also will try to continue his dominance over the Thrashers.
Since the start of last season, the MVP of this year's All-Star game has five goals and 11 assists versus Atlanta. Carolina also is 4-0-2 in its last six against the Thrashers when Staal has at least two points.
The Hurricanes are 2-1-1 against Atlanta this season.