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Atlanta Thrashers vs. New York Rangers @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Atlanta Thrashers (26-32-6-2) at New York Rangers (23-30-7-5).

TIME: Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST.

A pair of Eastern Conference teams holding on to slim playoff hopes conclude their home-and-home series when the Atlanta Thrashers visit the New York Rangers.

Atlanta beat New York 3-2 on Sunday to move into sole possession of 11th place in the East. The Thrashers trail the eighth-place New York Islanders by 12 points for the final postseason berth in the conference.

The Rangers, meanwhile, dropped into 12th place and are 14 points behind the archrival Islanders.

On Sunday, Ilya Kovalchuk bounced back from a one-game benching and scored his NHL-leading 34th and 35th goals to lead the Thrashers.

"I like to play against the Rangers," Kovalchuk said. "They're a real offensive team and we always get lots of chances."

Kovalchuk missed a team meeting before Friday night's game against New Jersey, and coach Bob Hartley held him out of that contest, which was won 3-2 by the Thrashers.

"I apologized to the team, and I just wanted to show them I was ready to go today," Kovalchuk said. "That's my favorite thing to do in my life, is to play hockey."

Atlanta has won two in a row and four of six, while the Rangers have dropped two straight and seven of nine.

Brian Leetch and Chris Simon had goals for the Rangers on Sunday, and Mark Messier had two assists, but New York finished 0-for-7 on the power play. The Rangers, 25th in the NHL on the power play, are scoreless in their last 11 opportunities with the man advantage.

"I don't know how many power plays we had, but we didn't do anything with them," Leetch said. "Lately, we've had more power plays than penalties."

The Thrashers are 6-0-1 in their last seven meetings with the Rangers since a 2-1 home loss on Feb. 8, 2002. The teams conclude their season series next Tuesday in Atlanta.

STANDINGS (through Feb. 29): Thrashers - 60 points, 3rd place, 22 PB, Southeast Division. Rangers - 58 points, 4th place, 26 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 35 goals, 35 assists and 70 points; Francis Lessard, 127 PIM. Rangers - Jaromir Jagr, 25 goals, 38 assists and 63 points; Simon, 215 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 29): Thrashers - Power play: 14.6 percent (47 for 323), 24th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.4 percent (263 for 308), 5th. Rangers - Power play: 14.0 percent (36 for 258), 25th. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent (257 for 316), 27th.

GOALTENDERS: Thrashers - Pasi Nurminen (22-23-5, 2 SO, 2.83 GAA); Frederic Cassivi (no appearances); Rangers - Mike Dunham (15-23-6, 1, 2.94); Jussi Markkanen (8-11-1, 2, 2.56).

SEASON SERIES: Thrashers, 1-0-1.

LAST MEETING: Sunday; Thrashers, 3-2. At Atlanta, Patrik Stefan had a short-handed goal, and Daniel Tjarnqvist added two assists to lead the Thrashers.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Thrashers - 12-18-2-2 on the road; Rangers - 12-15-3-4 at home.

Associated Press
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