THRASHERS (32-30-12) at HURRICANES (31-34-9)
Last 10 -- Atlanta 4-4-2; Carolina 5-3-2
Season series -- This game marks the fifth of six meetings between the Southeast Division rivals with the visiting team winning the previous four encounters. Atlanta won 6-4 and 5-3 at the RBC Center in Raleigh while the Hurricanes took 5-2 and 4-0 victories at Philips Arena, most recently on March 7. The teams will conclude the season series on Monday in Atlanta.
Big Story -- Atlanta Thrashers coach John Anderson hinted that his players might be gripping their sticks a little tighter down the stretch in an effort to clinch their first playoff berth in three seasons. Following a 4-0 setback to Boston on Tuesday, Anderson said his team played "nervous" hockey. Thrashers forward Nik Antropov agreed with his coach.
"I think we thought about (what the game meant) too much before the game," Antropov told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. "Everybody, I think, was like 'It's a big game, it's a big game.' When the game time came up, everybody was not ready."
Thrashers -- Atlanta not only had their four-game winning streak snapped but lost a chance to catapult into a playoff spot on Tuesday with its loss to Boston. The team then followed that up with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. The Thrashers trail the eighth-place Bruins by two points and the Flyers by four points for the seventh spot with eight games left in the regular season.
"I'm disappointed and really dismayed," Anderson said following his team's loss to the Maple Leafs. "If we play like that, we'll be out in two or three games from now. We have to play better. We've got to be smarter. We have to play harder. We've got to show that we want it."
Hurricanes -- In 24 games since Jan. 21, the Hurricanes have gone 17-7-2 while outscoring their opponents, 80-64. Over that span, Carolina's power play has gone 23-for-110 (20.9 percent) and its penalty kill has gone 75-for-89 (84.2 percent). Carolina is 20-15-3 at home this season, taking 10 of its last 13 at RBC Center, including a 3-2 shootout decision over Eastern Conference-leading Washington on Thursday.
Who's Hot -- Carolina forward Jussi Jokinen leads the team with 27 goals and is tied with captain Eric Staal for the team lead with 58 points. Jokinen has notched at least one point in 23 of Carolina's 31 wins and the 'Canes are 17-3-4 when he scores a goal.
Injury Report -- Carolina is without forward Tuomo Ruutu (shoulder surgery) and defensemen Alexandre Picard (upper body) and Tim Gleason (foot). Goalie Cam Ward (back), who has missed 18 games, is close to returning. … For the Thrashers, Evander Kane (broken foot) is out; Slava Kozlov (upper body), Todd White (upper body) and Chris Thorburn (back) are questionable and defenseman Christoph Schubert (hip) is out indefinitely.
Stat Pack -- Second-year center Brandon Sutter has 18 goals for the Hurricanes this season. Sutter, who averages 16:26 of ice time per game and is a regular against the opposing team's top line, has taken just one minor penalty. If he reaches the 20-goal mark, he'll become the first NHL player since Toronto's Sergei Berezin in 1999-00 to record 20-or-more goals and finish with just two penalty minutes. Berezin had 26 goals that year.
Puck Drop -- "We are going to need some teams to lose a few games for us to close the gap," Thrashers defenseman Ron Hainsey told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "There are three teams within four points. We can't really worry about that. We have to take care of our business and see where it gets us. We still have to put a nice stretch of games together to get in."