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Panthers-Thrashers Preview @NHL
Panthers-Thrashers Preview

GAME: Florida Panthers (7-12-4) at Atlanta Thrashers (8-12-2).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

Coming off their first win in a month, Olli Jokinen and the Florida Panthers look to halt an eight-game road skid when they visit the slumping Atlanta Thrashers.

Jokinen posted his first career hat trick to help Florida end a 12-game losing streak with a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

Jokinen scored twice during Florida's four-goal first period to help the Panthers avoid tying the franchise record for consecutive losses, a 13-game skid from Feb. 7-March 23, 1998.

"It's been a rough month," said Jokinen, who has a team-leading 22 points. "You read every day in the newspaper and see the numbers to see what the losing streak is. It's over now. It's a good feeling."

Jokinen's hat trick was Florida's first since Pavel Bure did it on March 17, 2001, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kristian Huselius, Gary Roberts and Stephen Weiss also scored for Florida, which lost won on Oct. 25, a 4-3 decision over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Florida, however, has lost eight straight on the road, one shy of the team record set from Feb. 9-March 25, 2002.

Goaltender Roberto Luongo, who had a 5.16 goals-against average in his previous four games coming into Friday's game, finished with 36 saves.

"I think a lot of guys, including myself, feel like the pressure's been lifted a little off our backs because it was getting pretty tough," Luongo said. "It's a big win, now we have to keep going."

Luongo made 34 saves in the Panthers' season-opening win Oct. 5 over the Thrashers to improve to 5-7-1 with a 2.89 GAA in 15 career games against Atlanta.

Atlanta suffered its third straight loss, 6-3 Thursday to the New York Rangers. Marian Hossa, Slava Kozlov and Marc Savard scored for the Thrashers, who have lost six of their last 10 games.

Atlanta's goaltending continued to struggle Thursday. Steve Shields was pulled after allowing two goals early in the second, three overall and finished with 10 saves. Backup Michael Garnett stopped 17 shots.

Shields hasn't been the answer to Atlanta's injury-plagued goaltending. Kari Lehtonen and Mike Dunham are both sidelined with groin injuries.

"We need some big saves," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "The teams that are doing well in the standings are getting the big saves. You need solid goaltending."

STANDINGS (thorugh Nov. 25): Panthers - 18 points, 3rd place (tied), 13 PB, Southeast Division. Thrashers - 18 points, 3rd place (tied), 13 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Jokinen, 10 goals, 12 assists and 22 points; Branislav Mezei, 37 PIM. Thrashers - Ilya Kovalchuk, 15 goals; Savard, 23 assists and 30 points; Andy Sutton and Eric Boulton, 50 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 25): Panthers - Power play: 11.9 percent (16 for 134), 29th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.4 percent (116 for 146), 25th. Thrashers - Power play: 21.7 percent (37 for 170), 5th. Penalty killing: 79.4 percent (124 for 156), 25th (tied).

GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Luongo (7-10-4, 2 SO, 3.11 GAA); Jamie McLennan (0-2-0, 0, 2.32). Thrashers - Shields (1-2-1, 0, 4.29); Garnett (1-3-0, 4.91).

SEASON SERIES: Panthers, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 5; Panthers, 2-0. At Sunrise, Fla., Nathan Horton and Lucas Krajicek scored for the Panthers.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 2-8-3 on the road; Thrashers - 4-6-0 at home.

Associated Press

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