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Lightning-Thrashers Preview @NHL

The Tampa Bay Lightning aren't getting many breaks. Facing a struggling Atlanta Thrashers team on the road, though, is an opportunity they shouldn't let slip away.

After losing on a tough call in a shootout, the Lightning look to finally end their road woes against the Thrashers when the Southeast Division rivals meet Saturday night.

Tampa Bay (7-15-9) has lost 16 of 18, but perhaps none of those losses have been as frustrating as the Lightning's last defeat.

Milan Hejduk was awarded the lone goal in a shootout when Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith was penalized for throwing his stick as the Lightning lost 2-1 to Colorado on Thursday night.

Tampa Bay interim coach Rick Tocchet called the decision "a tough one to swallow."

Now, the Lightning will try to beat the Thrashers (10-17-4) on the road for the first time in six games. Tampa Bay hasn't won at Atlanta since a 5-4 overtime victory on Feb. 22, 2007, and has been outscored 16-7 in its last four contests there.

The Lightning, however, seem to have an excellent opportunity to end their problems at Philips Arena.

Atlanta has lost seven straight at home (0-5-2) since beating Carolina 3-2 on Nov. 14. This is the Thrashers' longest home losing streak since dropping a franchise-worst nine in a row in 1999-00, which was their inaugural season.

Tampa Bay won 3-2 in overtime at home over Atlanta on Oct. 21 in the teams' first meeting this season. It was the Lightning's first win of the season after starting with five losses, including three after regulation.

Tampa Bay will have Jeff Halpern on the ice for this contest. The veteran center made his first appearance of the season Thursday after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery in June.

Halpern, acquired in a trade with Dallas last season, was hurt while playing for the United States at the World Championships.

"I felt good," Halpern said. "I'm not exactly where I want to be as far as the way I played, but I was pretty happy to be back."

Tampa Bay, which has scored two goals or fewer in four of its last seven games, could certainly use a boost from Halpern.

The Thrashers, meanwhile, have allowed four goals or more in three of their last four games, including a 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

"We can't let any mistakes creep into our game or else we pay for it," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "We get so far behind that we can't catch up."

Ondrej Pavelec, who has made 10 starts in net with Kari Lehtonen out with back stiffness, has had a tough stretch.

He allowed five goals on 13 shots before being pulled Thursday. In his previous start at home, he allowed three goals on five shots in a 7-3 loss to Boston on Dec. 12.

Johan Hedberg is Atlanta's other option in net until Lehtonen returns. Hedberg is 1-2-1 with a 5.13 goals-against average in his last five games against the Lightning.

Pavelec gave up four goals in his only start against Tampa Bay, but Atlanta won 6-4 on Nov. 3, 2007.

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