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Hurricanes-Thrashers Preview

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GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (51-20-6) at Atlanta Thrashers (37-32-7).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EDT.

After moving into a first-place tie in the Eastern Conference, the Carolina Hurricanes take on the Atlanta Thrashers looking to avoid a repeat of last week's disappointing performance.

The last time the two teams met, a 5-2 Atlanta victory last Saturday, the Hurricanes had lost seven of their previous 12 games. Carolina has since turned things around with a three-game road sweep of the Washington Capitals.

The latest win, a 4-3 victory on Friday, marked the team's first three-game winning streak since winning five straight from Feb. 12-March 6.

Justin Williams scored two of a franchise-record three shorthanded goals in Friday's win. He has six points in the last three games.

"We don't pride ourselves on trying to score with a man short, but if we have odd-man rushes, like we did tonight, we're all for it," Williams said. "Tonight was just a situation where opportunity knocks."

Carolina has already clinched a playoff spot, but the team is looking to overtake the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference. The Senators were idle on Friday, allowing the Hurricanes to move into a first-place tie. The Senators take on the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.

The Thrashers are holding on to slim hopes for the last playoff spot in the East. Atlanta is six points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the eighth and final spot. After facing Carolina and Tampa Bay, the Thrashers close out the regular season with four games against non-playoff teams.

Atlanta is coming off a tough 3-2 shootout loss to the Lightning on Thursday. Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 50th goal of the season with just 4.3 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime, but he wasn't able to repeat the performance during the shootout.

The Thrashers played most of the game without goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who left with a sprained ankle with 3:28 to play in the first period.

"It was the biggest game of the year and I came out after 15 minutes, so it was very tough," Lehtonen said.

STANDINGS: Hurricanes - 108 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Thrashers - 81 points, 3rd place, 27 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Eric Staal, 44 goals and 95 points; Cory Stillman, 53 assists; Mike Commodore, 136 PIM. Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 50 goals and 94 points; Marc Savard, 66 assists; Andy Sutton, 134 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Hurricanes - Power play: 17.8 percent (90 for 506), 16th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.3 percent (345 for 419), 15th. Thrashers - Power play: 19.4 percent (97 for 499), 6th (tied). Penalty killing: 79.2 percent (365 for 461), 26th (tied).

GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Martin Gerber (37-12-4, 3 SO, 2.68 GAA); Cam Ward (13-8-2, 0, 3.71). Thrashers - Lehtonen (20-15-0, 2, 2.94); Mike Dunham (4-4-2, 1, 2.53).

SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 4-3.

LAST MEETING: April 1; Thrashers, 5-2. At Atlanta, the Thrashers ended a two-game losing streak thanks to two goals by Kovalchuk.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 20-13-5 on the road; Thrashers - 21-13-4 at home.

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