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St. Louis Blues winger Keith Tkachuk needs one more point to become the eighth active player and 72nd all-time with 1,000 career points. On Sunday afternoon, he gets a chance to reach the milestone against some former teammates.
Tkachuk returns to Atlanta on Sunday for the first time since his brief stint playing for the Thrashers as he tries to help the Blues avoid their third consecutive loss.
Tkachuk, a first-round selection of the Winnipeg Jets in 1990, was traded to St. Louis on March 13, 2001. He's played for the Blues ever since - except for 18 games at the end of the 2006-07 season. The Thrashers acquired him for their playoff push - for Glen Metropolit and three draft choices on Feb. 25, 2007 - and traded him back to St. Louis four months later.
The 36-year-old winger played well in his brief stint with Atlanta, totaling seven goals and 15 points. He also had a goal and two assists in the playoffs as the Thrashers suffered a four-game sweep to the New York Rangers. As 2007 marked Atlanta's only postseason appearance, Tkachuk is tied with Pascal Dupuis for the most points in Thrashers playoff history with three.
Tkachuk scored a power-play goal in these teams' only meeting last season, a 3-2 Blues overtime loss in St. Louis on Dec. 23. The Blues won their first five all-time meetings with the Thrashers, but Atlanta has three wins and a tie in the last four matchups.
On Saturday afternoon, Tkachuk recorded his 999th career point and helped give St. Louis an early lead when he assisted on Brad Boyes' first-period goal. Patrik Berglund extended the lead with a goal less than a minute later, but the Blues (9-10-2) gave up four unanswered goals over the final two periods en route to a 4-2 home loss to Edmonton.
"Two things changed," said Blues coach Andy Murray, whose club has dropped two straight after a 4-0-1 stretch. "Their team played stronger in the second period and we knew they were going to and we didn't play as strong. It was a case of them turning their game up and us not."
The Thrashers (8-11-3) are in serious need of turning up their game these days, having lost five of six since a five-game winning streak. They rallied from three separate one-goal deficits Friday night against Nashville, but fell 4-3 after the Predators' Ryan Suter beat Johan Hedberg on a breakaway at 1:44 of overtime.
One bright spot for Atlanta continues to be Todd White, who scored his seventh goal of the season Friday. The 33-year-old center already has 20 points after finishing with 37 in 74 games last season, his first with the Thrashers. He's tied with Slava Kozlov and Bryan Little for second on the team in scoring, one point behind All-Star Ilya Kovalchuk.
"I talked to him at the very start of the year and I told him, 'Todd, 13 goals isn't going to cut it. You've got to score a lot more points for us,'" Thrashers coach John Anderson told the team's official Web site. "Lo and behold, he's risen to the occasion. He's playing with some grit and he's getting some points on the board."
White has two goals and six assists in 15 career games against the Blues.