A pair of teams battling for the top spot in the Southeast Division meet for the third time in two weeks Sunday afternoon when the Carolina Hurricanes visit the Atlanta Thrashers.
Carolina (33-27-7) hosted Atlanta (33-23-10) on Feb. 20 and lost 3-1, but rebounded to win 4-1 at Philips Arena four days later. The Hurricanes are 4-1-1 against the Thrashers this season, winning all three matchups in Atlanta.
Both teams are chasing first-place Tampa Bay in the Southeast and also are trying to improve their positioning in the Eastern Conference standings, where fourth place and eighth place are separated by just a handful of points.
Atlanta ended a five-game home losing streak on Friday night with a comeback victory over Ottawa. The Thrashers trailed 2-1 heading into the third period before Eric Belanger, Slava Kozlov and Pascal Dupuis all scored to give the team a 4-2 win.
Belanger scored his fifth goal in eight games since being acquired from Nashville on Feb. 10, one day after Carolina sent him to the Predators. Dupuis started this season with Minnesota and was traded to the New York Rangers on Feb. 9 before being dealt to Atlanta on Tuesday.
"Even though we make trades, we don't know players as well as when we coach them," Atlanta's Bob Hartley said. "But we always have an idea of what kind of players they are, and we try to match them with players who can cause damage."
The Thrashers began Friday night with just six points in nine home games since a Jan. 16 victory over Los Angeles.
"This team is fighting for its life now," said Belanger, who had just eight goals in 56 games with the Hurricanes this season. "Coming back in the third period showed a lot of character."
Carolina also took control in the third period on Friday night, holding Pittsburgh to eight shots and getting a goal from Scott Walker with under nine minutes remaining in a 3-2 victory.
The Hurricanes, who are trying to avoid becoming the third Stanley Cup champion to miss the postseason the following year, had dropped their previous two contests. Coach Peter Laviolette gave his team Thursday off, a move Walker said helped Carolina against the Penguins.
"You lose two in a row, it's hard," said Walker, who also scored in the second period. "If you come to the rink the next day, it's still there in the room. It was nice to get some time off."
Walker, who had scored only once in his previous 16 games, notched his third two-goal game of the season and first since Oct. 28.
"You can't worry about who gets the goals," he said. "When you play hard and skate hard, sometimes the bounces go your way. I thought the guys played really well."
Carolina has played well against the Thrashers this season, averaging 3.7 goals in the six matchups. The Hurricanes have outscored Atlanta 13-6 in the three meetings at Philips Arena.
These teams meet for the eighth and final time this season on April 6 in Raleigh.