THRASHERS (11-7-3) at HURRICANES (5-14-5)
Last 10 - Thrashers 5-3-2; Hurricanes 3-5-2
Season series - It's the first of six meetings between the two Southeast Division teams. The 'Canes and the Thrashers split last season's series. In their final matchup on Feb. 28, Atlanta trailed 3-1 coming into the third, but rebounded with four unanswered goals to take a 5-3 win over Carolina.
Big story -- The Hurricanes picked up two more road losses this week, and at 0-9-3 away from the RBC Center, they are the only NHL team that hasn't won on the road. However, they've won their last three home games -- and hope it to make it four Friday when they face the Thrashers.
However, Atlanta has been a better team on the road than at home. The Thrashers improved to 7-2-1 away from Philips Arena with a 2-0 victory at Detroit on Wednesday.
Team Scope :
Thrashers -- Ondrej Pavelec made 40 saves for the Thrashers to shut out the Red Wings. It was the Czech goaltender's second shutout of the season and of his NHL career, and put an end to Atlanta's three-game losing streak. Nik Antropov scored the eventual game-winner, while Slava Kozlov sealed the win with a power-play goal. Atlanta also successfully killed off three penalties, during which a quarter of the shots on Pavelec were taken.
"No question Pavelec was outstanding in the first period," said Atlanta coach John Anderson. "I thought we got better as the night went on."
Hurricanes -- After missing 10 games with an injury, the Hurricanes welcomed back centre Eric Staal to the lineup in Anaheim on Wednesday. While Carolina lost 3-2, the All-Star recorded six shots on goal, had two hits and picked up an assist on Brandon Sutter's third-period goal. Right wing Tom Kostopoulos opened the scoring for the 'Canes on the first shot of the game for both teams, but Anaheim pulled ahead in third period for the win.
"There's no bad teams in this League," Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf said. "You look up and down their (Hurricanes) lineup and they've got a good roster there. They play a patient game and they played well tonight, so we're lucky to get the two points."
Who's hot -- Kozlov has a goal and assist in his last two games and leads the Thrashers in shots, while Pavelec has made a minimum of 38 saves in his last four starts. Tuomo Ruutu, Jussi Jokinen and Ray Whitney lead the Hurricanes tie with 15 points; each has 6 goals and 9 assists.
Injury report -- Ruutu is questionable with a lower-body injury, as is goaltender Michael Leighton (strained groin). Cam Ward is out for some time with a lacerated left leg, while right wing Scott Walker is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Atlanta is missing only goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who's recovering from back surgery.
Stat pack -- The Thrashers are the only team in the League to win every game in which they've had a lead. They also hold an 8-0-0 record when scoring first in a game.
Puck drop -- The Thrashers will try to build on the momentum from their win in Detroit and take advantage of a fragile Hurricanes team. But with the 'Canes having regained the services of Staal, it won't be as easy.