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Game Day Preview

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (26-20-4-1) at Atlanta Thrashers (17-26-3-4).

TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

They may still be a last-place team, but the Atlanta Thrashers aren't thinking like one -- especially since the arrival of coach Bob Hartley.

The Thrashers will try to resume their resurgence under Hartley and go into the All-Star break on a high note as they play the Toronto Maple Leafs at Philips Arena.

Atlanta, which is last in the Southeast Division, has gone a sparkling 5-1-1 since Hartley took over for interim coach Don Waddell earlier this month.

Mats Sundin returned to from against the Thrashers.
Graig Abel Photography
Hartley, who was fired by the Colorado Avalanche -- a franchise he led to the 2000-01 Stanley Cup title -- on Dec. 18, has his team thinking about a postseason berth.

"We believe we can win every game," Hartley said after Tuesday's 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers. "I have no problem with that." Dany Heatley scored two goals against New York, following up a hat trick in the opener of the home-and-home series on Saturday. He has 11 goals in his last eight games, and will be heading to his first All-Star game this weekend.

Heatley has helped the Thrashers outscore their opponents 20-8 over the last four games.

"Bob came in and gave us a huge spark." Heatley said of Hartley's impact on the club.

Hartley refused to take credit for the sudden turnaround, which has moved Atlanta within 12 points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"The players are the difference," he said. "Those guys are sharp, they're showing up to work, they're listening. I'm just the guy holding the spotlight, watching them perform. It's been fun." The Maple Leafs ended a serious scoring drought and a three-game losing streak with Wednesday's 3-2 victory over Carolina.

Mats Sundin scored a pair of power-play goals for Toronto, which had gone 0-for-30 on the man advantage in its previous seven games.

The Maple Leafs had been outscored 10-1 during the three-game skid, and had gone 139 minutes without a tally before Sundin scored early in the second period.

STANDINGS (through Jan. 28):
Maple Leafs - 55 points, 3rd place, 16 PB, Northeast Division.
Thrashers - 41 points, 5th place, 15 PB, Southeast Division.

Maple Leafs - Alexander Mogilny, 22 goals, 31 assists and 53 points; Tie Domi, 99 PIM.
Thrashers - Ilya Kovalchuk, 28 goals; Heatley, 26 assists and 49 points; Andy Sutton, 100 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 28):
Maple Leafs - Power play: 17.7 percent (40 for 226), 13th in NHL. Penalty killing: 87.3 percent (219 for 251), 2nd.
Thrashers - Power play: 18.5 percent (43 for 232), 9th. Penalty killing: 82.7 percent (182 for 220), 18th.

Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (21-14-3, 5 SO, 2.15 GAA); Trevor Kidd (3-6-1, 3.43).
Thrashers - Pasi Nurminen (12-12-2, 2, 2.87); Byron Dafoe (4-9-1, 4.15).

SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1-1.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 23; Maple Leafs, 5-1. At Toronto, Mogilny scored three goals and Belfour made 20 saves as the Maple Leafs posted their first win in three meetings with the Thrashers this season. Toronto leads the all-time series 7-5-1.

Maple Leafs - 10-11-2-1 on the road;
Thrashers - 10-12-2-2 at home.
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