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New Jersey Devils vs. Atlanta Thrashers @NHLdotcom
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GAME: New Jersey Devils (4-3-0) at Atlanta Thrashers (2-5-0).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EDT.

The Atlanta Thrashers are losing games and players in ugly fashion. It doesn't appear the situation will get any better as they host the New Jersey Devils.

The Thrashers have lost four straight games by a combined 22-2 score, but have also shown unprofessional conduct with the games so out of hand.

Defenseman Andy Sutton was given a four-game suspension for bloodying Toronto's Darcy Tucker by driving him into the boards face-first in a 9-1 loss Oct. 14.

Eric Boulton, who was ejected from that game after instigating a fight with a borderline hit on Eric Lindros, likely will be given a suspension for his flagrant elbow to the head of Paul Ranger with less than three minutes to play in Thursday's 6-0 loss to Tampa Bay.

The hit left Ranger with a concussion and Lightning coach John Tortorella so enraged that Thrashers coach Bob Hartley sought out his counterpart after learning Tortorella let loose with an expletive-filled tirade about Boulton to reporters.

"We have a great group of players, but this is embarrassing," Hartley said. "There's no other way to explain the way we've played. It's embarrassing."

With regular goaltenders Kari Lehtonen and Mike Dunham both sidelined with groin injuries, Hartley has been forced to use rookies Michael Garnett and Adam Berkhoel in net, and neither has provided much hope.

Garnett was benched Thursday after allowing three goals in the first 11:34, while Berkhoel may start this game after stopping 26 of 29 shots.

The Devils appear to be on track after a slow start, scoring a combined 10 goals in consecutive victories over Florida and Pittsburgh.

Scott Gomez had a goal and assisted on both goals by Brian Gionta in a 6-3 victory over the Penguins on Thursday. Gomez, Gionta and rookie Zach Parise have formed a solid second line for the Devils, totaling eight goals and 18 points.

"It helps when you play with Gomez and Zach, they work hard down low so you get chances in front of the net," Gionta said.

Devils goalie Martin Brodeur has played well against the Thrashers, compiling a 12-3-3 record with four shutouts and a 1.59 goals-against average.

New Jersey is 7-1-2 all-time at Atlanta and owns a 13-4-3 record in the series.

STANDINGS (through Oct. 20): Devils - 8 points, 2nd place (tied), 3 PB, Atlantic Division. Thrashers - 4 points, 5th place, 6 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Devils - Gionta, 5 goals; Gomez and Brian Rafalski, 5 assists; Gionta and Alexander Mogilny, 8 points; Dan McGillis, 12 PIM. Thrashers - Marc Savard and Peter Bondra, 3 goals; Savard, 6 assists and 9 points; Boulton, 38 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Oct. 20): Devils - Power play: 22.7 percent (10 for 44), 6th in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.0 percent (37 for 43), 10th. Thrashers - Power play: 14.8 percent (8 for 54), 20th. Penalty killing: 77.4 percent (48 for 62), 25th.

GOALTENDERS: Devils - Brodeur (4-3-0, 3.43 GAA); Scott Clemmensen (0-0-0, 3.00). Thrashers - Garnett (0-2-0, 6.33); Berkhoel (0-1-0, 4.43).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Devils, 3-1.

LAST MEETING: March 26, 2004; Devils, 5-0. At Atlanta, the Devils scored four power-play goals and Clemmensen made 18 saves for his second career shutout.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devils - 1-2-0 on the road; Thrashers - 1-3-0 at home.

Associated Press

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