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Desperate teams meet as Thrashers host Rangers

by John Kreiser
RANGERS (29-29-9) at THRASHERS (28-28-10)

Last 10 -- New York 4-4-2; Atlanta 4-4-2

Season series --
It's the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Eastern Conference rivals, and the Thrashers are looking for a sweep. Atlanta has won all three meetings, two of them in shootouts. The Thrashers have beaten New York in their last five meetings, but four of the five games ended in shootouts.

Big story -- This is a battle of two slumping teams that are watching their playoff hopes melt away with the spring snow. The ninth-place Rangers have dropped four in a row, including Wednesday's 6-3 loss at New Jersey, and trail eighth-place Boston by five points. The Thrashers are in a slump of their own -- they've also dropped four in a row, including a 2-1 loss at Columbus on Thursday, and are a point behind the Rangers. This is the opener of a five-game homestand for Atlanta, and the Thrashers almost need a sweep to have any viable playoff aspirations.

Team Scope:

Rangers --
New York has had all kinds of trouble scoring, so the last thing the Rangers needed on a night when they scored three times was to see Henrik Lundqvist get shelled. But that's what happened against the Devils -- he was beaten five times on 17 shots before being pulled in the second period.

"It was just a tough night for me," Lundqvist said. "Pucks were hitting our guys, their guys. I tried to be square, but the puck kept finding a way in. I'm not going to analyze too much, just get ready for the next one."

Thrashers --
Goals have become an almost-extinct commodity in Atlanta, where the Thrashers have scored just three times in their last two games. Tuesday's loss at Columbus was another night of frustration, as the Thrashers outshot the Blue Jackets 17-1 in the third period but could only erase half of a two-goal deficit.

"When it's not going for you, it's not going for you," coach John Anderson said. "We got a little bit of a bounce on one of the goals -- for us -- but we're not getting any breaks right now."

Who's hot --
No one from either team is filling the net -- the Thrashers have just four goals in their four-game slide. Defenseman Johnny Oduya has been involved in each of the Thrashers' last two goals, assisting on Nik Antropov's tally in a 2-1 loss to Nashville on Tuesday and scoring his team's only goal against Columbus. … Olli Jokinen has 4 assists in the Rangers' last four games.

Injury report -- The Rangers are healthy -- for the second consecutive season they've been among the League leaders in fewest man-games lost to injuries. ... Atlanta forward Evander Kane (broken foot) and defenseman Christoph Schubert (hip) are expected to miss three weeks.

Stat pack --
History says the Rangers are in trouble if this game goes past regulation. The teams have had 11 games decided in overtime or shootouts, and the Thrashers have won nine of them. Atlanta is 4-1 in games decided in overtime and 5-1 in shootouts -- but owns just 12 regulation wins against New York.

Puck drop --
Both teams' playoff hopes are on life support, so neither can afford another loss. The team that leaves Philips Arena without two points is another day closer to getting ready for an early summer.

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