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Capitals-Thrashers Preview @NHL

The last time the Atlanta Thrashers and Washington Capitals met, they combined for 176 penalty minutes.

The Southeast Division rivals may have had over three weeks to cool off, but both enter Friday's matchup at Philips Arena frustrated with their recent play.

The Thrashers (18-9-5) already had a 4-2 victory over the Capitals (13-10-7) well in hand in the final minutes Nov. 22, but several fights broke out after a scuffle between Washington's Shaone Morrisonn and Atlanta's Steve Rucchin. Nine fighting majors were assessed as the teams were whistled for 144 of those 176 penalty minutes in the final 1:02 of play.

Capitals forward and enforcer Donald Brashear earned a three-game suspension for his part in the melee, while teammate Brian Sutherby and Atlanta's Scott Mellanby were each suspended for one contest. Capitals coach Glen Hanlon and Thrashers coach Bob Hartley were fined $30,000 and $10,000, respectively, as they shouted at each other from the benches and continued the argument to the halls.

Both teams have had reason to be upset lately, as they've experienced downturns following their best stretches of the season. The Thrashers have lost three straight, including a 2-1 defeat Wednesday to the Anaheim Ducks, following a season-best five-game winning streak.

"Right now, it seems like every break goes against us," Hartley said.

The Capitals rattled off a season-high four consecutive wins Nov. 28-Dec. 6, but have since dropped two of their last three, including a 5-4 shootout loss Monday to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Chris Clark rerecorded two goals and an assist to help Washington take a 4-0 lead less than six minutes into the second period, but the Capitals allowed four unanswered goals and settled for one point.

"It was an unbelievable game to watch," said Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin, who has nine points in the last four games. "We dominated the first period and 10 minutes of the second period and then just stopped playing.

"Sometimes that happens. Nothing is a lock, you know? We're just disappointed right now."

Ovechkin has 18 goals and 19 assists for 37 points this season, all team-highs, and has six goals and 13 assists in 12 career games against the Thrashers. Those numbers haven't translated into victories, however, as Atlanta has won all four matchups between the teams this season and seven of the last eight.

Two of the Thrasher's top scorers have keyed that success as Marian Hossa has three goals and two assists in four matchups with Washington this season to boost his career totals to 21 goals and 22 assists in 35 games - his second-most points versus any opponent. Ilya Kovalchuk has notched two goals and six assists against the Capitals this season and 14 goals and 18 assists in 26 career games.

Thrashers goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who made 30 saves Wednesday, is 5-0 with a 2.33 goals-against average lifetime versus the Capitals. Washington netminder Olaf Kolzig is 21-10-2 with four ties and a 2.72 GAA in 28 career starts against the Thrashers.

Mellanby was sidelined Wednesday with flu-like symptoms for Atlanta, and Brad Larson was out with an upper-body injury.

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