GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (14-19-9-2) at Atlanta Thrashers (19-20-4-2).
TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
The Atlanta Thrashers will try to break out of their recent slump as they
host the Carolina Hurricanes in the first game of the teams' home-and-home
On Wednesday, Ivan Majesky knocked the puck in his own net, allowing
Montreal to beat the Thrashers 2-1 and stretch Atlanta's winless streak to
eight games (0-6-1-1).
"You can't blame the guys for the effort," Atlanta goalie Byron Dafoe
said. "Some timely mistakes have cost us games. We're unfortunately finding
some ways to lose."
Atlanta has managed only six goals in five games -- and an injury to
second-leading scorer Marc Savard won't help.
Savard sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during the
second period Wednesday. It is uncertain how many games he might miss.
"Sure, we've got some key guys out," Thrashers goalie Byron Dafoe said.
"But it's an opportunity for other guys to step up."
Savard was returning to the lineup after missing three games with a
concussion. He also sat out nine in November because of an ankle injury, but
has managed 15 goals and 41 points in only 32 games.
Carolina is having problems of its own, having gone winless in its last
three (0-2-1) after a 5-4 defeat at Tampa Bay on Thursday.
Carolina coach Peter Laviolette didn't take any solace after the Hurricanes
fought back to make the game close after trailing 5-1.
"It really doesn't even matter. It's a loss," Laviolette said. "Am I
supposed to, or are they supposed to say: `Well, good effort. Good try. We
fought hard.' Do you think we're in a position to do that? We're not in any
position to do that."
The Hurricanes, five points behind the Thrashers, now have two important
"swing" games -- two you can earn for the win plus the two you take away from
your opponent -- against their division rivals.
"These are by far the most important games we've seen," Laviolette said.
"It's a chance for us to make up ground. It's that simple. Ultimately, it will
be up to us and nobody else."
Recent history is against the Hurricanes, as they have the worst record in
the NHL against their own division this season (1-6-3-0) and have won just
three of their last 22 division games.