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Senators start Southern trip in Atlanta

by John Kreiser

SENATORS (29-37-9) at THRASHERS (31-31-12)


Last 10 --
Ottawa 7-3-0; Atlanta 5-4-1

Season series -- It's the last of the four meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals. Ottawa has gotten points in all three, winning twice and losing 4-3 in a shootout. The Senators won 3-1 at Atlanta in their last meeting on March 3.

Big story -- Realistically, neither team is going to the postseason -- the Senators' hopes officially ended Friday, while the Thrashers have 74 points and just eight games remaining.

Team Scope:

Senators -- The Senators know their season ends in two weeks, but they're playing some of their best hockey of the season. Much of the improvement has come since the arrival of goaltender Craig Anderson in a deal with Colorado last month. GM Bryan Murray inked Anderson to a four-year deal on Monday; he responded by beating the Rangers 2-1 in a shootout and shutting out Washington 2-0 on back-to-back nights.

"I think for me it's just a matter of keeping the team in the game, giving them an opportunity to stay in the game and win it," said Anderson, whose 8-4-0 record with Ottawa includes a 42-save performance in the Senators' win at Atlanta earlier this month.

Thrashers -- Atlanta's playoff hopes all but ended on Friday, when League-leading Vancouver came to Phillips Arena and left with a 3-1 victory. The Thrashers had plenty of chances, but paid the price for a poor stretch in the second period that saw Atlanta score twice in about seven minutes.

"We had some good speed and had some good tempo, but that one lull," coach Craig Ramsay said. "That's hurt us a lot."

Who's hot --
Ottawa center Jason Spezza has 6 points in his last five games, as well as 3 goals in the three games against Atlanta. … Thrashers captain Andrew Ladd has career highs in goals (27) and points (54).

Injury report --
Ottawa defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who has missed the last four games with a concussion, didn't make the trip and is likely done for the season. The Senators are also without captain Daniel Alfredsson (back), defenseman Matt Carkner (lower body), forward Peter Regin (shoulder) and goalie Pascal Leclaire (lower body). … Atlanta is still without defenseman Freddy Meyer (upper body) and center Jim Slater (concussion).

Stat pack -- Ottawa and Atlanta have had five of their 43 lifetime meetings decided after regulation, either in overtime or a shootout. The Thrashers have won all five. … Though the Thrashers and Senators play just four times, this will be Atlanta center Rob Schremp's sixth game against Ottawa -- he played against the Senators four times with the Islanders before coming to Atlanta on waivers at the trade deadline.

Puck drop -- Alfredsson, who's missed the Senators' last 21 games with a back injury, accompanied the team on its three-game road trip, though he has yet to practice.

"There's a chance he may get on the ice in the next couple of practices," coach Cory Clouston said Saturday. "Right now, it's just a matter of getting with the team first and continuing on with his rehab. You may see him on the ice Monday."

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