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Predators-Thrashers Preview @NHLdotcom
Predators-Thrashers Preview

GAME: Nashville Predators (26-12-3) at Atlanta Thrashers (20-18-6).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.

League goal-scoring leader Ilya Kovalchuk will try to extend his career-best streak to six games when the Atlanta Thrashers meet the Nashville Predators.

Kovalchuk scored two more goals Saturday in a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has totaled nine goals during the streak - including five in the last two games - and leads the league with 32.

"I'm more happy we got the two points. It's a great win for us," said Kovalchuk as the Thrashers swept a home-and-home set from Pittsburgh.

Kovalchuk, who has a hat trick among four career goals against the Predators, is nine goals shy of tying his career high set in 2003-04 when he tied Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames and Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets with 41.

Linemate Marc Savard added a goal and two assists in Saturday's win over Pittsburgh. He has four goals and nine assists during a season-high eight-game points streak.

Atlanta has turned its season around after collecting just 10 wins in its first 29 games. The Thrashers have won 11 of 15 to move into second place in the Southeast Division and, more importantly, into the playoff race.

Atlanta is in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, one point of ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils for the final playoff berth.

The Predators may have answers for Kovalchuk and Savard. Nashville won for the third time in four games in a 2-1 win Tuesday over the New York Islanders as Steve Sullivan scored both times, making him the fastest to reach the 20-goal mark in franchise history

"It's not a goal I set for myself," said Sullivan, who has 21 goals in 38 games this season. "I don't think I have ever hit it this early in a season."

Paul Kariya has totaled five assists and eight points in six games against the Thrashers, his lowest point total against any team other his former club, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

STANDINGS: Predators - 57 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Central Division. Thrashers - 46 points, 2nd place, 14 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Predators - Sullivan, 21 goals and 39 points; Kimmo Timonen, 25 assists; Darcy Hordichuk, 100 PIM. Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 32 goals and 63 points; Savard, 42 assists; Andy Sutton, 78 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Predators - Power play: 17.8 percent (49 for 275), 13th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.9 percent (231 for 272), 6th. Thrashers - Power play: 21.5 percent (66 for 307), 4th. Penalty killing: 79.1 percent (227 for 287), 29th.

GOALTENDERS: Predators - Tomas Vokoun (21-9-2, 1 SO, 2.55 GAA); Chris Mason (5-2-1, 0, 2.95). Thrashers - Kari Lehtonen (3-2-0, 0, 3.06); Michael Garnett (10-7-4, 2, 3.44).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Thrashers, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 23, 2003; Thrashers, 4-2. At Atlanta, Kovalchuk scored his third career hat trick to lead the Thrashers.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Predators - 10-7-3 on the road; Thrashers - 11-7-4 at home.

Associated Press
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