THRASHERS (34-33-13) at CAPITALS (53-15-12)
Last 10 --
Atlanta 4-4-2; Washington 6-1-3
Season series --
Washington is going for a sweep of the six-game season series. Three of the five wins have been by one goal, including a 2-1 victory at the Verizon Center in the last meeting eight days ago. The Caps have won the last seven meetings between the teams.
Big story --
The Caps are out of team goals to play for -- they've already won everything there is to win after clinching the Presidents' Trophy this week. But rest assured the Caps would love to get their captain, Alex Ovechkin
, a couple of goals -- he enters the night with 48, one behind NHL leader Sidney Crosby. The Caps have won four in a row this month after ending March on an 0-1-2 slide.
Atlanta was officially eliminated from the playoff race on Tuesday after a 3-0 home loss to New Jersey. The Thrashers mustered just 19 shots and are 2-4-2 in their last eight.
The Thrashers, who traded captain and top scorer Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey on Feb. 4, will miss the playoffs for the ninth time in their 10 seasons. However, coach John Anderson said he couldn't criticize his team's effort.
"It wasn't for lack of trying and that's one thing a coach likes to see, is that they gave it what they had," Anderson said.
Ovechkin is batting Crosby and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos for the goal-scoring lead and is trying to overtake Vancouver's Henrik Sedin in the points race. Ovechkin might well be comfortably in front in both races had he not missed 10 games with injuries and suspensions.
He has struggled to score since the Olympic break, but connected twice in Tuesday's 6-3 win over Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I've had lots of chances to score goals, and finally it did go in," he said.
Other Caps with personal goals: Alexander Semin
needs one goal to get to 40; Mike Knuble
needs two goals for 30; defenseman Mike Green
needs one goal to reach 20; center Nicklas Backstrom
needs two points for 100; and goaltender Jose Theodore needs a victory for his fourth 30-win season.
Who's hot --
Backstrom is coming off back-to-back three-point games, while Ovechkin has scored two points in each of his last two games. Semin has four goals in his last five games.
Injury report --
The Thrashers have shut down defenseman Pavel Kubina (upper body) and centers Nik Antropov (hip) and Todd White (upper body). Defenseman Christoph Schubert (knee), who's missed 17 games, is also officially done for the season.
Stat pack --
Atlanta is 10-10-5 since trading Kovalchuk. … Tuesday's win over the Penguins put the Capitals at exactly .500 (1,214-1,214-303-71) for the first time in franchise history. They lost the first game they ever played and had never been back to the NHL's break-even mark since then.
Puck drop --
The Thrashers are playing for pride; the Caps to stay sharp before the playoffs begin next week. Assuming Ovechkin plays (he's been given the option to sit by coach Bruce Boudreau), don't be surprised if he eschews a defensive responsibility or two to try to win the goals race and scoring title.