PANTHERS (26-31-7) at THRASHERS (26-28-11)
TV: FS-F (HD)
Florida 3-7-0; Atlanta 2-7-1
This is the sixth and final meeting of the season between these Southeast Division rivals. The road team has reigned supreme to this point, with Atlanta sweeping the three games in Florida and the Panthers having won both their trips to Philips Arena. Stephen Weiss
leads them with 2 goals and 4 points, while Bryan Little and Zach Bogosian each have 1 goal and 3 points for the Thrashers.
There are 17 regular-season games remaining for Atlanta and the margin for error has almost disappeared, as the Thrashers need to start winning now in order to avoid their points deficit to make the playoffs reaching double digits. This is the finale of a five-game homestand -- they've gone 1-2-1 so far while managing only six goals.
Offense has also been at a premium in Florida of late, as the Panthers have averaged just a goal per game over their last half-dozen contests. They were held off the board entirely by Carey Price on Thursday in a 4-0 loss to visiting Montreal. The Panthers return to Sunrise after this one to begin a seven-game homestand, but they need a positive result in order to get the fans excited again and rejuvenate the players as well.
"It's obviously disappointing to be losing the way we are lately," goalie Scott Clemmensen
said. "You just keep trying, going out there and doing your best. You can't do anything more than that. We were so close all season long, we still are, but if we keep losing we'll keep slipping further and further behind. We've got to get this thing going in the other direction."
Generating shots wasn't a problem for Atlanta on Thursday, but getting the puck past Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson proved more of a challenge. The Thrashers' 3-1 loss to the Senators was largely due to the brilliant netminding by the recently-acquired Anderson, who turned aside 42 of the 43 shots he faced. Dustin Byfuglien's 19th goal of the season cut a two-goal deficit in half, but the Senators got it back less than five minutes later and held on.
"I mean, we got like 40 chances on net, but we didn't go hard to the net," forward Nik Antropov said. "We shot every possible shot from outside, but we didn't make it hard for (Anderson). … Today, myself included, nobody is at the net."
Although they haven't done a lot of it lately, the potential to light the lamp is certainly there for both sides: Weiss, David Booth
and Mike Santorelli
are in a three-way tie for the Panthers' lead with 17 goals, while captain Andrew Ladd has a career-high 23 to lead the Thrashers, including 7 goals in his last 10 games.
Florida has forwards Rostislav Olesz (knee), Jack Skille
(ankle), Ryan Carter
(back), Evgeny Dadonov
(hand) and Shawn Matthias
(ankle) on injured reserve. … Atlanta forward Patrice Cormier (upper body) is day-to-day, while goalie Ondrej Pavelec (wrist) is out indefinitely. Defenseman Freddy Meyer (head) and forwards Alexander Burmistrov (foot) and Jim Slater (concussion) are on injured reserve.
Panthers coach Peter DeBoer is seeking his 100th NHL victory. … The Thrashers have taken 40 or more shots in five straight games and allowed 27 shots or fewer in three straight.
Coach Craig Ramsay told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution his thoughts aren't on making or missing the playoffs.
"I'm worried about the very next game," he said. "We have to be so focused on the very next game. We can't look at anything else. Nothing.
"Right through the rest of the season you have to show everybody what you've got. We can't be satisfied that we got another 40 shots. We have to be satisfied when we win."