GAME: Colorado Avalanche (27-11-7-2) at Atlanta Thrashers (21-21-4-2).
TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
The Atlanta Thrashers will try to continue building on their newfound
momentum as they host the Western Conference-leading Colorado Avalanche at
Having won two straight games, the Thrashers appear to have righted
themselves after a nine-game winless streak (0-7-1-1) that almost derailed a
solid start to their season.
With a 4-1 victory over Buffalo at Philips Arena on Tuesday night, the
Thrashers are back to .500, and within three points of Tampa Bay for the
Southeast Division lead. Atlanta is one point behind the New York Islanders for
the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"We're talking about playoff races," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said.
"That's great for the fans, and great for us. We're going to grow no matter
how it turns out."
A trio of Atlanta skaters ended scoring droughts against the Sabres. Slava
Kozlov ended an eight-game skid with a pair of tallies, Patrik Stefan scored
for the first time in 11 games, and J.P. Vigier ended an 11-game drought.
Thrashers goaltender Pasi Nurminen also appears to be regaining his early
season form. Before posting back-to-back wins, he had lost 10 of 14.
"Pasi made some big saves," Hartley said. "That's the type of goaltending
that's going to get us to the playoffs. That's the good ol' Pasi we saw at the
beginning of the season."
The Thrashers will need a similar effort against the visiting Avalanche on
Thursday night. Colorado has been playing well on the road this season,
including a 6-5 shootout win at Florida on Wednesday night.
"The bottom line is you have to find ways to win no matter what the other
team throws at you," Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. "We've had good
success on the road and that's a good label to have - a team that's able to win
consistently on the road."
With only three losses in 23 road games all season and one regulation defeat
in 19 road contests (11-1-5-2) since the first week of November, the Avalanche
are confident away from home ice, even with All-Star center Peter Forsberg out
with an injured groin.
Alex Tanguay helped make up for Forberg's absence with a hat trick against
the Panthers, while Milan Hejduk, Joe Sakic and Andrei Nikolishin also scored
for Colorado, which rallied from 3-0 and 4-3 deficits.
Colorado is tied with Toronto for the most points in the NHL (63), and is
10-1-0-1 in its last 12 games overall.