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Carolina Hurricanes vs. Atlanta Thrashers

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GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (24-30-13-4) at Atlanta Thrashers (28-34-7-3).

TIME: Monday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

While it appears the Atlanta Thrashers have little chance of making the playoffs, they aren't giving up.

With 10 games remaining, the Thrashers will continue to try to accomplish the improbable when they host the Carolina Hurricanes.

Atlanta began its sixth NHL season hopeful for its first trip to the postseason. But a car crash right before the start of the season killed young Thrashers center Dan Snyder and injured last season's leading scorer Dany Heatley, who was driving the car.

Ilya Kovalchuk, however, assumed a leadership role and became an All-Star for the first time in his career. Even Heatley returned, but the Thrashers have remained inconsistent.

"As long as we've got a chance, we're going to keep pushing," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "It's as simple as this: I'll never quit, and I will never accept that anyone in this organization quits."

A 5-2 victory over Washington on Saturday night kept Atlanta 10 points behind the New York Islanders for the eighth and final postseason berth in the Eastern Conference. With few games left, the 11th-place Thrashers know they might not be able to afford another loss if they want to make the playoffs.

"It's nice to have 20 goals, but it's most important that we win," Vyacheslav Kozlov said after scoring his 20th in Saturday's game. "We have to win every game ... It's Game 7 of the playoffs right now."

Kozlov had a pair of assists and scored during Atlanta's three-goal spurt in the game's final 6:08. Randy Robitaille and Andy Sutton also scored for the Thrashers, who tied a franchise record with 15 home wins and broke a four-game winless streak.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are 11 points back of the East's final playoff spot in 12th place.

Carolina has gone 5-0-1-1 over its last seven road games, including a 5-1 victory over East-leading Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Sean Hill had two goals, and Kevin Weekes made 20 saves as the Hurricanes snapped the Lightning's 18-game point streak.

"They're playing really well right now ... it was nice to be a thorn in their side for one night anyway," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said.

STANDINGS: Hurricanes - 65 points, 4th place, 30 PB, Southeast Division. Thrashers - 66 points, 3rd place, 29 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Erik Cole and Josef Vasicek, 16 goals; Justin Williams, 26 assists; Cole and Williams, 37 points; Jesse Boulerice, 118 PIM. Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 37 goals, 39 assists and 76 points; Francis Lessard, 137 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 13): Hurricanes - Power play: 11.5 percent (38 for 331), 30th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.2 percent (259 for 315), 22nd. Thrashers - Power play: 14.8 percent (53 for 358), 23rd. Penalty killing: 85.5 percent (282 for 330), 5th.

GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Weekes (22-25-10, 6 SO, 2.23 GAA); Arturs Irbe (2-1-1, 0, 1.97). Thrashers - Pasi Nurminen (24-26-6, 2, 2.77); Frederic Cassivi (no appearances).

SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 4-0.

LAST MEETING: Friday; Hurricanes, 4-2. At Raleigh, N.C., Williams scored a tie-breaking goal and Weekes made 23 saves.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 12-15-5-2 on the road; Thrashers - 15-15-4-1 at home.


Associated Press
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