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Chelios returns to NHL as Thashers visit Jackets

by John Kreiser /

THRASHERS (28-27-10) at BLUE JACKETS (26-30-11)

Last 10 -- Atlanta 4-4-2; Columbus 4-4-2

Season series -- The teams are meeting for the second and final time this season. Columbus came into Philips Arena on Nov. 5 and skated away with a 4-3 victory. The Jackets have won the last three meetings between the teams, who haven't played at Nationwide Arena since Dec. 26, 2007.

Big story -- Despite a 5-2 victory at Anaheim on Tuesday, the Blue Jackets' playoff hopes are all but dead -- they are 12 points out in the West with just 15 games remaining. The Thrashers, who were eighth in the East less than a week ago, have dropped to 10th, four points out of the last playoff spot, by dropping their last three games -- including a 2-1 home loss to a banged-up Nashville team on Tuesday.

Team Scope:

Thrashers -- Atlanta will have a new/old face in the lineup. The Thrashers have recalled 48-year-old defenseman Chris Chelios from their AHL farm team in Chicago. He'll be appearing in the NHL for the 26th season, and comes to Atlanta after going 5-17-22 in 46 games for the AHL Wolves.

"Chris has been an outstanding leader and mentor for our young players in Chicago and his level of play has made him deserving of this opportunity," Atlanta GM Don Waddell said. "He's a tremendous competitor who strengthens our group of defensemen and instantly adds a veteran presence to our locker room."

Blue Jackets -- The Jackets may not repeat last season's run to the playoffs, but they showed plenty of grit and pride with their performance in Anaheim. One night after being embarrassed in a 6-0 loss at Los Angeles, and playing without injured captain Rick Nash, the Jackets got a 36-save performance by Mathieu Garon and three power-play goals in six tries.

"We wanted to bounce back," Garon said. "We were not satisfied at all, and sometimes it's a good thing to get right back at it the next day. I think we responded really well."

Who's hot -- Thrashers center Nik Antropov has 2 goals and 5 points in Atlanta's last four games and is 5-12-17 in his last 15. Niklas Bergfors, part of the return from New Jersey in the deal that sent Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils, has 3 goals and 4 points in the last four games. … Jakub Voracek, Antoine Vermette and Fedor Tyutin all had a goal and a pair of assists for Columbus in the win at Anaheim.

Injury report -- Thrashers defenseman Boris Valabik is done for the season due to a torn ACL, but otherwise, Atlanta is healthy. … .The Jackets hope to have Nash (lower body) back in the lineup; he's listed as day-to-day. Kristian Huselius (hand) has missed the last two games, and defenseman Rostislav Klesla (groin) is on IR.

Stat pack -- The teams have met just 11 times since Columbus joined the NHL in 2000, one year after the Thrashers. Columbus has won six of the 11 (one in overtime), and three of the wins have come via shutout. The Thrashers have been blanked in two of the three previous meetings.

Puck drop -- The Jackets are largely playing for pride and jobs for next season. The Thrashers are still very much alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but they can't afford many more losses, especially against a team that's in the bottom five in the overall standings. It will be interesting to see what effect the arrival of Chelios, one of the best and most successful defenseman in NHL history, will have on a team that's unaccustomed to making the playoffs.

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