THRASHERS (25-24-9) at WILD (29-26-4)
Atlanta 4-4-2; Minnesota 5-4-1
This is the only meeting of the 2009-10 season between these teams. They haven't met since Oct. 14, 2008, when a pair of third-period goals by Antti Miettinen led Minnesota to a 4-2 win in Atlanta. Niklas Backstrom
made 24 saves.
Hoping to put together some momentum heading into the Olympic break, the Thrashers make the second stop on a three-game road trip while the Wild play the fourth of five straight at the Xcel Energy Center. Each team currently sits outside the top eight in its respective conference.
A game that was there for the taking slipped from Atlanta's grasp on Wednesday. Nik Antropov scored early in the third period to give the Thrashers a 3-1 lead in Colorado, but the rest of the night belonged to the Avalanche. They rallied for two goals to force overtime and needed just nine seconds before Kyle Cumiskey put a puck past Johan Hedberg to hand the Thrashers an extremely bitter 4-3 defeat.
"He got the puck from the faceoff and pretty much skated through our whole team and scored," Hedberg said. "I don't think anyone expected him to keep going like he did. It was a great play by him."
After winning the first two games on its homestand, Minnesota was edged 3-2 by Phoenix on Wednesday. Guillaume Latendresse
opened the scoring for the Wild with a power-play goal and Martin Havlat closed it late in the third, but the Coyotes put three on the board in between.
"We started strong and finished strong," Backstrom said. "If we just play like that for 60 minutes, I think we have a chance."
Antropov has a goal and four assists in the last two games for Atlanta. Bryan Little has goals in consecutive games and four in his last five. Newcomer Niclas Bergfors has also scored in two straight.
Havlat has three goals and an assist in the last three games for Minnesota. Latendresse has four goals and two assists in his last seven games.
Thrashers defenseman Boris Valabik tore his left ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. He joins fellow blueliner Christoph Schubert (back) on injured reserve.
Wild goalie Josh Harding
has been battling a hip injury and may not dress Friday. Defenseman Clayton Stoner
(groin) and forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion) and Chuck Kobasew (sprained MCL/ACL) are on injured reserve.
Recent trends suggest a big advantage for the home team in this one: Atlanta is 3-12-4 on the road since early December and 3-for-53 on the power play in its last 15 road games. Minnesota was 9-0-1 in its previous 10 games at Xcel Energy Center before losing to Phoenix.
Should this game end up going to overtime, expect to see both teams go for it. The Thrashers and Wild need two points desperately and since this is a cross-conference battle there's no concern about giving up the extra point to a team fighting for the same playoff berth.