HURRICANES (26-31-7) at THRASHERS (28-25-10)
Last 10 – Carolina 7-3-0; Atlanta 4-4-2
Season series – It’s the fourth of six meetings between the Southeast Division rivals, and the visiting teams have won the first three. Atlanta won 6-4 and 5-3 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, and the ‘Canes won the last meeting, a 5-2 victory at Philips Arena on Jan. 21.
Big story – Despite spending most of the first half of the season in the NHL’s basement, the Hurricanes actually have a chance to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference thanks to a seven-game winning streak that ended Saturday in Florida. One of the teams they’re chasing is the Thrashers, who fell two points behind Montreal for eighth place after losing 6-2 at Tampa Bay on Saturday.
Hurricanes – One reason for the Hurricanes’ hot streak has been the play of rookie Justin Peters, who won his first three starts and allowed just four goals in that span. He took his first NHL loss on Saturday and gave up two goals in 71 seconds late in the first period of a 4-1 defeat.
Rookie Justin Peters suffered his first career loss following three straight wins. He has been backing up veteran Manny Legace while Cam Ward remains day-to-day with an ailing back that has caused him to miss eight consecutive games.
Still, Peters regrouped after the Panthers’ early blitz and kept his team in the game.
"Giving up two goals early in the game was really a big test for me to mentally stay with it," Peters said. "I was able to stay strong and give the team a chance."
Thrashers – Conventional wisdom said the Thrashers were giving up when they dealt their captain, Ilya Kovalchuk, to New Jersey on Feb. 4. But the Thrashers have actually played better since the deal, and one reason is the addition of forward Niclas Bergfors, who came in the deal.
Bergfors hadn’t scored in his last 16 games with the Devils, but he’s had six goals in eight games with Atlanta. Not coincidentally, the Thrashers are 4-2-2 since the deal.
Who’s hot – Carolina’s Jussi Jokinen has 14 goals and 9 assists in his last 18 games – including 3 goals and 2 assists in the two games against Atlanta. … Bergfors has 6 goals and an assist in his last seven games, including three goals in the Thrashers’ last two contests.
Injury report -- Carolina goalie Cam Ward is listed as day-to-day with a back injury that has kept him out for eight games. … Thrashers rookie forward Evander Kane left Saturday’s game during the second with a foot injury after blocking a shot.
Stat pack – Carolina’s Eric Staal also has two of his nine career hat tricks in Atlanta, including one during the win in January. … Bergfors has climbed into second place among rookies with 19 goals, trailing only Colorado’s Matt Duchene.
Puck drop – Both teams saw their playoff hopes take a hit with Saturday’s losses. Neither can afford an 0-for-2 weekend, so expect an intense game. The Hurricanes figure to be especially desperate, since they’re running out of time to overcome their slow start.