MAPLE LEAFS (26-35-12) at THRASHERS (32-30-11)
Last 10 -- Toronto 7-3-0; Atlanta 4-5-1
Season series -- This is the third of four meetings -- and both teams have made some big changes since the last one. On Dec. 7, since-traded Alexei Ponikarovsky scored goals 28 seconds apart to lead Toronto to a 5-2 home win. Goaltender Vesa Toskala made 22 saves, and Lee Stempniak, Matt Stajan and Mikhail Grabovski also had goals; only Grabovski is still a Leaf. On Jan. 19, Ilya Kovalchuk scored two goals to rally Atlanta to a 4-3 home win -- one of the team's last before he was traded to New Jersey.
Big story -- One team has little to play for (Toronto), the other, everything! Atlanta, after a stinging 4-0 home loss to Boston on Tuesday, still sits in striking distance of the playoffs, only three points behind the Bruins for the final spot in the East. "We don't think about the implications of the game," Thrashers coach John Anderson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We worry about how we play. We need to come out hard and do all the things that we want to do as a team. Whatever happens, happens. I don't want us to dwell on the fact that it's a huge game because then you start to squeeze your stick a little tight. We just have to play the game the way we want to play it."
Maple Leafs -- Toronto hits the road for one game following a 4-1 loss against Florida on Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre that snapped its three-game winning streak.
The Maple Leafs entered the game with wins in six of their last seven games as they try to climb out of the Eastern Conference basement. "We had some good moments in this game, for sure, but we also had a few lapses and kind of gave them their goals,'' said Fredrik Sjostrom, who scored the only goal for Toronto. "It was a little step back for us tonight. We've been playing good in the previous games, so it's definitely a tough loss for us."
Despite the setback, the Leafs have won seven of their last 10 games.
"We've got to get a little hungrier when we want to score goals, get more traffic," said goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who made 25 saves in a losing effort. "We need to try and play a solid 60 minutes."
Thrashers -- Atlanta is wrapping up a two-game homestand that began with a highly disappointing 4-0 loss against Boston on Tuesday. A victory could have leapfrogged the Thrashers ahead of the Bruins for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Instead, Atlanta dropped three points back and had its four-game winning streak snapped.
"We looked very nervous with the puck," Anderson said. "We looked young out there, quite honestly."
Atlanta is attempting to make the playoffs for the second time in franchise history, and the first since 2006-07.
"We had way too many turnovers tonight," said defenseman Ron Hainsey. "And that's the bottom line."
Trailing 2-0 in the second period, the Thrashers could have changed momentum on a penalty shot awarded to Colby Armstrong, but he was stopped by Tuukka Rask. "If we go into the third period 2-1, it's a different hockey game," Anderson said.
Who's hot -- For the Maple Leafs, Phil Kessel has 3 goals in four games, Dion Phaneuf has 2 assists in three games, Tyler Bozak has 3 goals and 5 assists in nine games, Nikolai Kulemin has 3 goals and 6 assists in eight games, and Jonas Gustavsson has won five consecutive starts from March 6-20 (2.10 GAA, .921 save percentage). For the Thrashers, Nik Antropov has 5 goals and 3 assists in six games, Ron Hainsey has a goal and 4 assists in four games, Maxim Afinogenov has 2 goals and 5 assists in six games, Armstrong has 4 goals and an assist in four games, and Clarke MacArthur has 3 assists in three games.
Injury report -- For the Maple Leafs, Mike Komisarek (shoulder) and Mike Van Ryn (knee) are on injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the season. For the Thrashers, Evander Kane (broken foot) and Christoph Schubert (hip) are out indefinitely, and Boris Valabik (torn ACL) is on IR.
Stat pack -- Antropov has 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in his last 23 games. … Eric Boulton passed Jeff Odgers' all-time Thrashers franchise mark of 532 penalty minutes on March 20 against the Flyers. Boulton now has 545 penalty minutes. … The Thrashers have played in a League-leading 40 games this season that have been decided by one goal, posting a 15-14-11 record in those contests. … Toronto's Colton Orr is second in the League with 209 penalty minutes in 73 games. Zenon Konopka of TampaBay is first with 236. The last Maple Leaf to lead the NHL in penalty minutes was Tiger Williams when he recorded 298 in 1978-79 season. … With an average age of 26.7, the Leafs currently have the youngest roster in the NHL. … Since returning from injury on Nov. 3, 2009, Kessel leads the NHL in shots with 274 in 61 games.
Puck drop -- "If we come out and win the next one, we're back in it. We can't get too down. Obviously we're disappointed, but we have to keep our focus and excitement and try to bring it our next game." -- Thrashers goalie Johan Hedberg to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution following Tuesday's loss