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Panthers, Thrashers looking to make up ground

by Eric Goodman
PANTHERS (7-8-0) at THRASHERS (7-8-3)
TV -- FS-F (HD), SPSO (HD)

Last 10 --
Florida 5-5-0; Atlanta 4-4-2

Season series --
This is the second of six meetings between these Southeast Division rivals. Atlanta took the first game of the 2010-11 season series with a 4-3 come-from-behind regulation win back on Nov. 3 at Sunrise, Fla.

Big Story -- Atlanta kicks off its longest homestand of the season, as it will play its next six games at Philips Arena. Both the Thrashers and Panthers trail the first-place Washington Capitals by double-digit points already, so both clubs will want to get a winning streak going as soon as possible. Neither team has managed to string together more than two consecutive wins all season.

Team Scope:
Panthers -- A quick glance at Florida's record will tell you the entire story. With almost a quarter of the season schedule in the books, the Panthers are still desperately searching for some sort of consistency.

Florida had a chance to assemble a three-game winning streak on Saturday but that quickly slipped away with a lackluster 5-2 loss at Philadelphia, in which the Flyers opened the game with five unanswered goals.

"We hung with them for the first 12 minutes, but when you make mistakes against a great hockey team, the hottest team in the League, they make you pay," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said.

Thrashers --
Atlanta is experiencing the same inconsistency as Wednesday's opponent. However, the last time the Thrashers won two in a row was back on Oct. 29.

It's a bit of a frustrating situation, considering the solid performances from newcomers Andrew Ladd (team-leading 18 points) and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (second with 16 points), as well as a promising sophomore season from forward Evander Kane, who is tied with Ladd for the team lead in goals with seven.

While Atlanta battled back to tie the Capitals 4-4 in the second period on Sunday, it let Washington run away with the game in the third, eventually falling 6-4 in D.C.

"We lost their defensemen too many times today, and they're pretty good players back there," coach Craig Ramsay said. "You just can't do that."

Who's Hot -- For Florida, center Mike Santorelli has a two-game goal-scoring streak and has three tallies over his last five games. … For Atlanta, Ladd had a goal and an assist in the loss to Washington Sunday and has notched at least a point in four of his last five games.

Injury Report -- Panthers forward Steve Bernier did not play Saturday after getting hit with a stick to the face during the end of Friday's game against Minnesota. Defenseman Jason Garrison remains day-to-day with a groin injury and forward Byron Bitz is on injured reserve recovering from sports hernia surgery. … Thrashers centers Bryan Little (concussion) and Patrice Cormier (broken foot) are on injured reserve.

Stat Pack -- The most telling stat to describe the up-and-down season for the Thrashers has to be the discrepancy between their goals-for and goals-against average. As of Tuesday night, Atlanta was third in the Eastern Conference with an average of 3.11 goals per game, but was second-to-last in the entire NHL with a 3.61 goals-against average.

Puck Drop -- Ramsay is getting to the point where he's attempting everything he can think of to shake up his team. This included yanking starting goalie Chris Mason in the middle of Sunday's game in favor of backup Ondrej Pavelec.

"We made it 3-2 and then coughed one right back up," Ramsay said. "Whether it's (Mason's) fault or not at that point … it's time to make a change. It's time to do something to get the players a wake-up call."

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