Even without making a major trade prior to this week's deadline, the New York Islanders expect to make a playoff run.
So do the Atlanta Thrashers, even after one of their top players was dealt away.
Following their best stretch of the season, the Islanders look to avoid their third straight loss on Thursday night when they face the Thrashers, who are trying to adjust without Marian Hossa.
New York (30-27-7) has dropped two straight following a season-high six-game winning streak and is in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, but didn't make any big acquisitions before Tuesday's deadline.
The Islanders instead traded defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron to Anaheim and forward Chris Simon to Minnesota for draft picks while picking up defenseman Rob Davison from San Jose for a draft selection. But New York was content keeping the core of its team intact.
"Our team is who we have now," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "We feel we have a well-balanced team with four equal lines. We have to work together as a group. We knew right from the get-go we wouldn't have guys who can skate coast-to-coast and get us goals."
|The Islanders look to avoid their second-consecutive loss following a season-high six-game winning streak when they battle the Atlanta Thrashers for important playoff points tonight. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)|
New York did keep a key to its offense by signing center Mike Comrie to a one-year extension. He leads the team with 27 assists and 45 points.
The Islanders' hopes of making a run at a postseason berth may rely on how productive their reunited "Kid Line" can be. Frans Nielsen, scored his first goal of the season in New York's 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, a game in which the Isles took a season-high 52 shots.
Jeff Tambellini, recalled from the minors before the game, assisted on Nielsen's second career goal in 26 contests. Tambellini, Nielsen and Blake Comeau will have the rest of the season to develop the chemistry they had in the AHL.
"The kids are doing fine," Nolan said. "The more games they play and the more experience they get, the better they're going to become."
The Thrashers' roster, meanwhile, got a bigger makeover after trading Hossa and Pascal Dupuis to Pittsburgh on Tuesday for forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen, who will debut with their new team.
Atlanta also acquired 2007 first-round pick Angelo Esposito and the Penguins' first-round selection in 2008. Thrashers coach and general manager Don Waddell, however, insists his team didn't give up on making the playoffs when he sent away Hossa, who will be eligible for free agency in July.
"We didn't trade any of our other unrestricted free agents - Bobby Holik, Mark Recchi - there are other guys we could have traded for something," Waddell said. "But we're not ready to give up on anything. We've got 18 games left.
"We need to have a good run, there's no doubt about it. But if we were just packing it in for the season we would have looked at it much differently, maybe we could have gotten a couple more first-round picks."
Hours after dealing away Hossa, Atlanta lost its fourth in a row, 5-1 to Montreal. Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 41st goal for the Thrashers, who have tallied just seven goals during their skid.
A soft Southeast Division has allowed Atlanta (29-31-4) to remain in playoff contention, even though it's 14th in the East with 62 points. The defending division champions are nine points behind Buffalo for the eighth and final playoff spot and 14 points in back of Southeast-leading Carolina.