GAME: Atlanta Thrashers (19-21-4-2) at Carolina Hurricanes (15-19-9-2).
TIME: Sunday, 1:30 p.m. EST.
The Atlanta Thrashers, a first-place team just a week ago, hope to end a
season-high nine-game winless streak when they complete a home-and-home series
against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Atlanta was arguably the league's biggest surprise through the first half of
the season, leading the Southeast Division and apparently headed toward the
franchise's first playoff appearance.
The Thrashers, however, have yet to win in 2004, going 0-7-1-1 since a 3-1
victory over Tampa Bay on Dec. 26. They've fallen from the top spot in the
division into second place behind the Lightning.
Ilya Kovalchuk's second goal of the game late in the first period gave
Atlanta a 3-1 lead Friday, but Carolina scored three times in the second period
and held on for a 4-3 victory at Philips Arena.
"The mentality right now is not where it should be," Thrashers goalie
Byron Dafoe said. "Every game we have to play it like it's do or die if we
want to get to the playoffs, and we are slipping away fast. You have to realize
how tough it is to make the playoffs in this league. All 20 of us have to look
in the mirror and say, 'Do we want to make it or not?"
One of the league's best offensive teams for much of the season, Atlanta has
struggled in that area lately. Friday was the first time in six games that the
Thrashers scored more than two goals.
Dafoe, who made his third straight start Friday, dropped to 0-4-1 in his
last five decisions. Regular starter Pasi Nurminen has allowed 15 goals during
a personal four-game losing streak.
Although Carolina is four games under .500, it is very much alive in the
race for a playoff berth, and still within striking distance of Tampa Bay in
the mediocre Southeast.
Jeff O'Neill completed his second career hat trick with a pair of goals in
the second period for the Hurricanes, 7-7-1 since Peter Laviolette was hired as
the team's coach.
O'Neill had three goals Friday after scoring five times in his first 44
"I'm a goal scorer," O'Neill said. "That's what I'm supposed to do. It's
unfortunate it hasn't happened so far, but hopefully I can keep it going."
Carolina, the league's lowest-scoring team, has eight goals in its last two
games after totaling nine in its previous six contests.