THRASHERS (18-13-4) at BRUINS (17-11-7)
Last 10 -- Thrashers 4-5-1; Bruins 5-3-2
Season series -- The Thrashers will be looking to snap a seven-game losing streak to the Bruins, including a 4-3 shootout loss on Nov. 19 in Atlanta. Patrice Bergeron had the only goal of the shootout after Michael Ryder had scored twice in regulation. The game will be the first of two meetings between the teams in eight days in Boston.
Big story -- The countdown to the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day continues in Boston. The Bruins are hoping Monday's 2-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators is a step in the right direction -- it snapped a season-long four-game losing streak. The Bruins have struggled to score goals, connecting for nine over their last five games (1-2-2).
Following a lackluster 2-0 shutout to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bruins coach Claude Julien called out his skill players.
"You need your guys that are supposed to produce to produce," Julien said. "If you don't (get production from those top players), you have to rely on your grinders to lead the way. That's not a good sign."
Thrashers -- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Tuesday that negotiations between the Thrashers and Ilya Kovalchuk have hit a "snag." According to a Russian newspaper, Kovalchuk seeks a contract worth the maximum allowed under the League's labor agreement or $11.3 million a year. Thrashers general manager Don Waddell remains hopeful of signing his star wing, who has 20 goals and 37 points in 29 games this season.
"Our position is different than his position right now," Waddell told Journal-Constitution. "Their position is fixed years with money, and we have a different side of that. That's what we have to work through. We've gotten through every thing else, now we have to make it through that."
Said Kovalchuk: "It's a business. I think every player goes through that. It's the first time for me. It's (management's) decision, but I like everything here. Like I've said a lot of times, I want to play with one team all my life, but you never know."
Bruins -- The Bruins' two-game reunion of center Marc Savard with wing Michael Ryder was shelved once again on Monday when coach Julien promoted Steve Begin to the top unit with Marco Sturm. Ryder was then put on a line with 2008-09 linemates David Krejci and Blake Wheeler.
Begin, who was working the fourth line with Shawn Thornton and Vladimir Sobotka, is hoping to make the most of the opportunity.
"Energy. Hard work,"' Begin said when asked what he could provide alongside Savard. "I've just got to play the same way. It's a good opportunity for me. I've got to seize it and do the same job I've been doing lately. I can't change my game just because I'm playing with Savvy and Sturmy. If I can bring that energy while playing with them, it will be good."
Savard is without a goal in six straight games, Sturm has one goal over his last six and Ryder has connected once in the last nine. Perhaps even more alarming is the fact defenseman Zdeno Chara, who had 19 goals last season, has only two.
Who's hot -- Thrashers center Nik Antropov has seven goals in the past seven games -- he's got 9 goals and 29 points in 36 games this season. … Atlanta defenseman Tobias Enstrom has a six-game point streak during which he's accumulated nine assists.
Injury report -- For the Bruins, forward Milan Lucic (ankle) and defenseman Mark Stuart (sternum) are out. … Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen (back surgery) hasn't played this season.
Stat pack -- The Bruins have killed 27 of 28 opposing power-plays over the last eight games. They lead the NHL in penalty-killing efficiency at 87.1 percent.
Puck drop -- It'll be interesting to see if Boston coach Claude Julien gives Tim Thomas the nod after his scintillating 29-save, 2-0 victory on Monday. The win enabled Boston to avoid its first five-game losing streak since they dropped six in a row in December 2007.