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Capitals-Thrashers Preview @NHLdotcom
Capitals-Thrashers Preview

GAME: Washington Capitals (10-19-2) at Atlanta Thrashers (14-16-4).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Atlanta Thrashers apparently thrive when the pressure is on.

Atlanta will try to extend its winning streak to a season-high four games when it meets the Washington Capitals.

With a 2-1 win Saturday over the Florida Panthers, Atlanta has won three straight - all by one goal - to move over .500 (5-4-3) in one-goal decisions.

Ilya Kovalchuk and Jim Slater scored 17 seconds apart early in the third period and goaltender Michael Garnett made 27 saves in Atlanta's latest win.

Garnett, a rookie, has played some of his best hockey of late, going 3-0 and stopping 81 of 90 shots during the winning streak.

"They have scored a lot of goals for me to win some high-scoring games," Garnett said. "So I feel obligated now to keep them in the games and give them the opportunity to win some low-scoring games."

The Thrashers have battled goaltending injuries all season with Kari Lehtonen (groin), Mike Dunham (groin) and Steve Shields (knee) all sidelined. Garnett stepped in and has started 15 games, including 12 in a row.

"When you look at teams that are being successful, it starts with your goaltending," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "I think he is developing some good confidence. That's contagious."

After reassigning Adam Berkhoel to Gwinnett of the East Coast Hockey League Monday, Atlanta is without a backup goalie and expected to make a roster move before this game.

Washington has dropped two in a row and nine of 11 with a 3-2 loss Sunday to Florida. The Capitals had a franchise-record 55 shots on goal, but only Chris Clark and Matt Pettinger were able to score on Panthers goaltender and Canadian Olympic team member Roberto Luongo.

"Luongo was unbelievable," Sutherby said. "When you get 55, 56 shots, you hope to win hockey games and it's frustrating. It's a game that I think we should have won. Cap off to him, he played well."

Rookie standout Alexander Ovechkin has been held without a point in two straight games, tying the longest run of his brief career set Nov. 3-4. He has two assists - both on the power-play - in three games against the Thrashers this season.

Washington is 0-for-11 with the man advantage in its last two games.

STANDINGS: Capitals - 22 points, 5th place, 24 PB, Southeast Division. Thrashers - 32 points, 3rd place, 14 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Capitals - Ovechkin, 18 goals and 34 points; Ovechkin and Jeff Halpern, 16 assists; Brendan Witt, 80 PIM. Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 21 goals; Marc Savard, 31 assists; Kovalchuk and Savard, 45 points; Eric Boulton, 61 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 20): Capitals - Power play: 11.8 percent (22 for 185), 30th in NHL. Penalty killing: 77.8 percent (172 for 221), 30th. Thrashers - Power play: 20.3 percent (49 for 241), 5th. Penalty killing: 78.6 percent (173 for 220), 28th.

GOALTENDERS: Capitals - Olaf Kolzig (9-13-2, 3.36 GAA); Brent Johnson (1-5-0, 4.99). Thrashers - Garnett (7-7-2, 3.72).

SEASON SERIES: Thrashers, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 4, 2005; Capitals, 3-2 (SO). At Washington, Jakub Klepis and Bryan Muir each scored in regulation while Ovechkin notched the deciding shootout goal to give the Capitals the win.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Capitals - 3-11-1 on the road; Thrashers - 8-7-2 at home.

Associated Press

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