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Blue Jackets-Thrashers Preview

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Blue Jackets-Thrashers Preview

GAME: Columbus Blue Jackets (8-19-0) at Atlanta Thrashers (10-16-3).

TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Atlanta Thrashers hope to improve their special teams and end a season-high, five-game losing streak as they host the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Thrashers are fifth in the league on the power play, but their effectiveness with the man advantage has been nonexistent during the skid. They have converted just 3-of-29 chances in those five games, and their penalty-killing unit continued its season-long struggle.

Atlanta has allowed nine power-play goals in 31 opportunities during its losing streak, the team's longest since a six-game skid from Jan. 30-Feb. 11, 2004.

Marian Hossa scored two goals in Atlanta's 5-3 defeat Tuesday to the San Jose Sharks. Linemate Ilya Kovalchuk, has not scored a goal during the losing streak - his longest drought of the season - and has just two assists in that span.

"We didn't have enough going for us in the third and we couldn't cash in on any chances all night," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "We ran into discipline problems in the first, and that just took our momentum away."

Columbus has won three of its last four games after a seven-game losing streak, including a 4-3 shootout victory Thursday over the New York Islanders.

David Vyborny scored the lone shootout goal for the Blue Jackets, who have won all three of their games decided by shootout.

"I knew I was going to shoot, Vyborny said. "I know him (goaltender Rick DiPietro) from the world championships. I just tried high glove and it went in. It was good to get the win. Two points is very good for us."

The Blue Jackets may not have center Manny Malhotra for this game. Malhotra, who leads the team with 13 assists, returned to the lineup after missing two games with back spasms, but hurt his shoulder in a second-period fight and is questionable for this game.

Sergei Fedorov scored his first goal of the season and first in nine games since being acquired by the Blue Jackets. The veteran center had three assists in his first eight games with Columbus.

The Blue Jackets scored a season-high three power-play goals, matching their total from the previous six games.

"The power play looked the best its looked all year," Blue Jackets coach Gerard Gallant said. "They scored some pretty goals. It was a fun game to watch."

STANDINGS (through Dec. 8): Blue Jackets - 16 points, 4th place, 24 PB, Central Division. Thrashers - 23 points, 3rd place, 15 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blue Jackets - Vyborny, 6 goals; Malhotra, 13 assists; Vyborny and Bryan Berard, 16 points; Jody Shelley, 48 PIM. Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 17 goals; Marc Savard, 27 assists and 38 points; Andy Sutton, 60 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 8): Blue Jackets - Power play: 11.6 percent (18 for 155), 30th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.2 percent (156 for 192), 22nd. Thrashers - Power play: 20.1 percent (43 for 213), 5th. Penalty killing: 78.3 percent (152 for 194), 28th.

GOALTENDERS: Blue Jackets - Marc Denis (3-11-0, 0 SO, 3.51 GAA); Pascal Leclaire (1-5-0, 0, 3.77). Thrashers - Michael Garnett (3-7-1, 0, 4.09); Adam Berkhoel (2-4-0, 0, 4.08).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 7, 2003; Blue Jackets, 4-2. At Columbus, Ohio, Vyborny and Geoff Sanderson scored 56 seconds apart midway through the first period for the Blue Jackets, who limited the Thrashers to 14 shots.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blue Jackets - 3-11-0 on the road; Thrashers - 5-7-1 at home.


Associated Press
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