THRASHERS (19-12-5) at BRUINS (17-11-4)
TV -- FS-S (HD); NESN (HD)
Last 10 --
Atlanta 6-2-2; Boston 5-3-2
Season series --
This is the second game of four between Atlanta and Boston this season. The Thrashers got goals from four different players in the first meeting to earn a 4-1 victory at home on Nov. 28.
Big Story --
Atlanta had picked up at least a point in 14 of 16 games prior to Tuesday's 4-2 loss against St. Louis. The Thrashers have also been victorious in four of their last five road games. Boston has struggled as of late and hopes to turn things around after having dropped four of its last five games, totaling just nine goals over that span. This game could also feature two of this season's hottest goaltenders going head-to-head as Boston has Tim Thomas
and Atlanta features Ondrej Pavelec.
The Thrashers have been a historically underachieving franchise as they have made the playoffs just once in their first 10 seasons in the NHL. However, a return to the postseason for the first time since 2007 appears likely as Atlanta (43 points) trails the Southeast-leading Capitals by just one point entering Thursday's games.
One glance at Atlanta's roster and it's easy to tell that key offseason acquisitions are the main reason behind its recent success. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien came to the Thrashers after winning a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks last season as a forward and he now leads his new club, as well as all NHL defensemen, with 36 points. Byfuglien's teammate from Chicago and current Thrashers captain Andrew Ladd has 31 points to lead their forwards.
While Thomas leads the NHL in shutouts (5), save percentage (.948) and goals-against average (1.70), those individual stats aren't a direct reflection of how his Bruins have performed so far this season. Still, Thomas' superb numbers could be seen as the reason why the B's are firmly embedded in the playoff race as opposed to being on the outside looking in. The Bruins' 38 points through 32 games has them in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with a four-point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes as Boston closes out a three-game homestand Thursday.
Who's Hot --
Byfuglien has 2 goals and 6 points over his last six games for Atlanta. … Besides Thomas, who has carried the Bruins for stretches this season, forward Milan Lucic
has been solid with a club-leading 16 goals and 27 points.
Injury Report --
The Bruins' official site reported Wednesday that defenseman Mark Stuart (broken finger) was on the ice early for the club's off-day practice in Wilmington, Mass. However, center Brad Marchand
was not seen at practice after having missed Monday's game against the Ducks as a result of an undisclosed injury suffered against Washington last Saturday.
Stat Pack --
Pavelec is second to Thomas with a 1.82 GAA and .943 save percentage.
Puck Drop --
The Thrashers used to be a team that most NHL clubs looked forward to playing. But now that Atlanta has improved tremendously, it is finally starting to get the respect it deserves.
"Atlanta is a really, really good team, so it's going to be a tough game and one that we must be up for," Bruins forward Blake Wheeler told bostonbruins.com following Wednesday's practice.