GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (27-13-8-3) at Atlanta Thrashers (21-23-6-2).
TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
Now that the Atlanta Thrashers have Dany Heatley back in their lineup, they can turn their attention toward making up ground in the playoff race.
Heatley and the Thrashers will try to end a four-game winless streak when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit Philips Arena.
Four months after he was involved in a car accident that resulted in the death of teammate Dan Snyder, Heatley played his first game of the season Wednesday in Atlanta's 1-1 tie against St. Louis.
Heatley was seriously injured in the accident, suffering a broken jaw and torn ligaments in his right knee. After surgery, it was expected that Heatley would miss most - if not all - of the season.
Although he may have been a bit rusty, Heatley gave plenty of reasons for optimism. He tied for the team lead with four shots on goal and had a pair of scoring opportunities late in the first period with his team on a power play.
"Now the first one's over," Heatley said. "Maybe I can move on."
Atlanta coach Bob Hartley put Heatley - the league's ninth-leading scorer last season with 89 points - on a line with Slava Kozlov and Daniel Corso. Heatley also played at times with star left wing Ilya Kovalchuk.
"It's a very positive first step," Hartley said. "I put him in some tough situations at key moments in the game."
With two games in two nights starting Friday, Hartley said it would be Heatley's decision to play. However, Heatley said his knee was fine and that he had every intention of playing Friday and Saturday at Tampa Bay.
The Thrashers were headed for their third straight loss Wednesday before Jeff Cowan's goal with 2:24 left in regulation allowed them to salvage a point.
A first-place team most of this season, Atlanta has two wins in its last 15 games (2-9-3-1). With four goals during an 0-2-2 skid, Atlanta can clearly use Heatley's scoring and playmaking ability.
Despite getting hit hard by injuries, Toronto has remained near the top of the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs are battling Ottawa, Philadelphia and New Jersey for the best record in the East.
Right wing Mikael Renberg became the latest to join Toronto's lengthy injury list. He left Tuesday's 2-0 loss to Carolina in the second period with a pulled hamstring and did not return.
The Leafs are already missing forwards Alexander Mogilny, Owen Nolan, Darcy Tucker and Tom Fitzgerald and defenseman Wade Belak because of injuries.
"We are not expecting anyone of the group that has been off for a while to return," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "There have been several dates mentioned for Nolan, including Saturday, but it does not look that way."
-- Associated Press