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Sabres, Thrashers want to put end to losing streaks

by Adam Kimelman
THRASHERS (25-25-10) at SABRES (27-25-6)

TV -- FS-S (HD), MSG-B (HD)

Last 10 --
Atlanta 2-7-1; Buffalo 5-4-1

Season series -- This is the third of four meetings between the teams this season. They split the first two matchups, both of which were played in Atlanta in October. On Oct. 20, Ryan Miller stopped 17 of 18 shots in a 4-1 Sabres victory, and nine days later Dustin Byfuglien's overtime goal gave the Thrashers a 4-3 victory.

Big story -- This game will have huge implications on the playoff fortunes of both teams. They enter the game with 60 points, four points out of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. However, both teams are struggling, and on three-game losing streaks. Someone has to win this one, though, and that team will have a big leg up in the race to the postseason.

Team Scope:

Thrashers -- Blake Wheeler may be in a new place, but at his first practice in Atlanta, he felt right at home.

The drills his new team was running under coach Craig Ramsay were the same ones he had seen Ramsay lead when he was an assistant coach in Boston.

"Blake made a comment about it right off the bat because it's a hard drill," Ramsay told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "They saw one of the old drills coming out pretty quick."

Wheeler, along with defenseman Mark Stuart, was traded to the Thrashers last Friday.

"I view this as a great opportunity and a great challenge," Wheeler told the newspaper. "It really couldn't have been a more perfect situation having Rammer here already, having worked with him pretty extensively in the past few years on the penalty kill. That makes everything a lot easier in itself. Philosophy-wise, you know where he is coming from."

Sabres -- Wednesday's game marks the beginning of a new era in club history -- the first under the ownership of Terry Pegula, who was introduced as the new owner Tuesday.

"It's very exciting," Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta, who grew up in the Buffalo suburb of Angola, N.Y., told the Buffalo News. "We're focused with what we have to do on the ice, but things going on off the ice are exciting."

"It's not on the top of our list because we have to focus on playing hockey, but it's still on your mind. When you finally find out that it's actually happened, it's pretty cool."

Who's hot -- Thrashers captain Andrew Ladd is leading by example, scoring goals in three straight games and four of the last five. … Sabres forward Jason Pominville scored his team's only goal Sunday against Washington, and in his last six games, he has 2 goals and 5 points.

Injury report -- The Thrashers will be without defenseman Freddy Meyer (head), and forwards Alexander Burmistrov (foot) and Freddy Modin (upper body). Forwards Eric Boulton (illness) and Patrice Cormier (upper body) are questionable for Wednesday. … Outside of the season-ending leg injury to Sabres forward Derek Roy, the team reports no injuries.

Stat pack --
Last season, the eighth-place team in the Eastern Conference had 88 points. A win Wednesday would put the Sabres on pace for 86 points, while a win for the Thrashers would put them on pace to finish with 83.

Puck drop -- Ladd could become a restricted free agent this summer, but both player and team are doing what they can to hammer out a new deal.

"I want to be a part of what we are doing here," Ladd told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We kind of need a couple guys to stay and say this is a good place, and we've got a good thing going here. It will help out a lot."

Ladd, in his first season with the Thrashers, leads the team with 21 goals and is second with 45 points. He was named team captain Nov. 18.

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