Season series - - This is the second of six meetings between these two Southeast Division rivals. The Thrashers took the first two contests: a 2-1 shootout win in Sunrise, Fla. back on Dec. 5 and a 4-3 decision on Nov. 30 in Atlanta.
Big story - - Atlanta is seeking its third win in a row overall, while the Panthers are trying to creep back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Thrashers are also looking to defeat Florida for the third time this season and the second time in a row at BankAtlantic Center, dating back to last season.
Thrashers - - The words “Thrashers” and “playoffs” haven’t been used together too often in the city of Atlanta, but the Thrashers have certainly proved that they can hang with the rest of the tough Eastern Conference competition all season long. Their 2-1 shootout win against the Rangers on Monday was their second victory over New York this season and their 37 points has them in the sixth position in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
Coach John Anderson realized the significance of Monday’s victory, which helped his team get back on the positive side of things in such a hotly contested conference.
"It was very big for us," Anderson said. "We want to be on the winning track. Two games in a row is good."
Panthers - - The Cats return home to Sunrise after going 2-1-1 during a five-game road trip this past week, capped by a convincing 7-1 win at the New York Islanders on Monday. There has been little consistency with Florida as their longest winning streak is only three games, which actually occurred twice this season, but they have picked up points in eight of their last 13 contests.
The seven goal performance against the Islanders had head coach Peter DeBoer gaining confidence in his squad.
"I liked the fact the last couple of nights that when we had a team down, we found a way to close them out," DeBoer said. "We have to continue to do that."
Who’s hot - - Goaltender Johan Hedberg has won three of his last four starts for Atlanta, including a career-high 46 save performance over the Rangers in his last game. Nathan Horton notched a hat trick and added an assist against the Islanders and now has seven points over a current three-game point scoring streak.
Injury report - - The Thrashers are still without defenseman Mark Popvic (broken foot) and goaltender Kari Lehtonen (back surgery). Center Dominic Moore returned for Florida on Monday from an upper-body injury, while center Gregory Campbell is still listed as day-to-day with the same injury. Kendal McArdle (shoulder), Cory Stillman (knee) and Nick Tarnasky (face) are expected to return in the coming weeks. David Booth (concussion) is out indefinitely.
Stat pack - - Atlanta averages the second most shots against per game in the League at 34.5, while Florida averages the most shots against at 34.9.
Puck drop - - It’s safe to say that this matchup can be dubbed “The Shootout at Sunrise”, considering each club’s penchant for giving up close to 35 shots against per game. The pressure will be on both Atlanta goaltender Hedberg and his opponent Tomas Vokoun to keep the constant flow of shots out of the net.