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Blues-Thrashers Preview @NHLdotcom
Blues-Thrashers Preview

GAME: St. Louis Blues (10-26-5) at Atlanta Thrashers (21-18-6).

TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.

The return of rookie goaltender Kari Lehtonen has sparked the Atlanta Thrashers.

They'll shoot for a season-high fourth straight win when they host the hapless St. Louis Blues.

Lehtonen is 4-2 since being activated from injured reserve on Dec. 30, including wins in three straight starts. Lehtonen hurt his groin in the Thrashers' season opener, forcing him to miss 38 games.

His backup, veteran Mike Dunham, is healthy again too. Dunham was activated from injured reserve Thursday. He hasn't played since hurting his groin on Nov. 12 at Carolina. With two solid netminders, Atlanta can now take advantage of one of the league's top offenses.

The Thrashers boast three of the NHL's top nine scorers, including Ilya Kovalchuk, who is second in the league with 65 points.

Marian Hossa scored the only goal in a shootout to lift the Thrashers to a 4-3 victory over the Nashville Predators on Wednesday. It was Atlanta's first shootout victory in five tries.

Lehtonen stopped Steve Sullivan, Paul Kariya and Marek Zidlicky in the shootout to earn his fourth win.

"We found another way to win and it was a special one because we got to taste victory after a shootout," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said.

St. Louis has lost four straight, including the first three of a five-game road trip.

The Blues outshot the Florida Panthers 38-32 on Thursday, but lost 3-1.

Rookie Kevin Dallman scored his first NHL goal for the Blues. St. Louis, which has the worst record in the league, has scored a total of two goals in its last three games.

"At least we got chances," said Blues wing Scott Young. "When you're not getting chances, that's really bad. We showed signs of life tonight."

STANDINGS: Blues - 25 points, 5th place, 36 PB, Central Division. Thrashers - 48 points, 2nd place, 12 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blues - Mike Sillinger, 14 goals; Doug Weight, 28 assists and 37 points; Jamal Mayers, 88 PIM. Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 33 goals and 65 points; Marc Savard, 42 assists; Andy Sutton, 78 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blues - Power play: 14.6 percent (40 for 273), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.7 percent (201 for 249), 24th. Thrashers - Power play: 21.1 percent (67 for 317), 4th. Penalty killing: 79.1 percent (231 for 292), 28th.

GOALTENDERS: Blues - Jason Bacashihua (3-4-0, 0 SO, 3.95 GAA); Curtis Sanford (4-8-1, 2, 2.79). Thrashers - Lehtonen (4-2-0, 0, 3.02); Dunham (4-3-1, 1, 2.10).

2003-2004 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 0-0-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 28, 2004; Tied, 1-1. At Atlanta, Jeff Cowan scored with 2:24 left in regulation to earn a tie for the Thrashers.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blues - 5-13-2 on the road; Thrashers - 12-7-4 at home.

Associated Press
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