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Sens try to keep Kovalchuk in check @NHLdotcom

THRASHERS (2-0-0) at SENATORS (2-1-0)

Season series -- The teams split the series last year, alternating victories back and forth. Only the second game on Jan. 14 was decided by less than three goals.

Big story -- It's surely no surprise that the fortunes of the Thrashers ride heavily on the shoulders of captain Ilya Kovalchuk, and he's in top form to start the season. He has two goals in each of Atlanta's first two contests, including the 300th and 301st of his career in a 4-2 win in St. Louis on Thursday. His 301 goals and 105 power play goals lead the NHL since his rookie season in 2001-02. He's also racked up an impressive tally in Ottawa, with 11 goals and six assists in 13 road games against the Senators. Proving that no man can do it alone, however, his team is 5-8-0 in those games.

Team scope

Thrashers -- After ranking 29th of 30 teams on the penalty kill last season, the Thrashers have snuffed six of seven to start. 18-year-old Evander Kane is pulling his weight early, proving effective on the kill and picking up a couple of points in the first two games, including his first NHL goal on Thursday.

Senators -- Ottawa may be 0-for-7 with a man advantage, but they're on a two-game winning streak, beating the Maple Leafs and Islanders after falling to the Rangers in their opener last Saturday in New York. One of the more interesting side stories the past few days has been journeyman defenseman Matt Carkner's first NHL goal in the second period Thursday. The 28-year-old had played in only two NHL games before this season.

Meanwhile, Jason Spezza and Chris Neil had an exchange in practice Friday, according to a TSN report. Neil gave Spezza a two-hander to the back of the legs and Spezza answered in kind, leading to a dropping of the gloves which was immediately broken up by teammates.

"That's all right. That's just intensity," coach Cory Clouston said."They'll shake hands and make up."

Clouston also switched up the top two lines on Friday, swapping Nick Foligno and Daniel Alfredsson because there was "not enough production" coming from those lines.

Who's Hot
-- Kovalchuk may be grabbing the headlines these days, but Rich Peverley has a good thing going early as well, scoring twice in the Tampa Bay win with an assist. Alfredsson sets the pace for the Sens with three points in his first three games. Rookie center Peter Regin has a pair of goals after converting once in 11 games last year.

Injury report -- Thrashers defenseman Boris Valabik, who injured his left ankle in a fall during practice Monday, is expected to miss four to six weeks after surgery Thursday.

Ottawa defenseman Filip Kuba (upper body) did not skate with the team on Friday. Jesse Winchester (knee) and Ryan Shannon (concussion) did participate in practice, but neither is slated to play.

Stat pack
-- Spezza has started slowly with one assist and a minus-3 rating, but does boast three goals and two assists in his last two games against the Thrashers.

Puck drop -- The Thrashers are looking to go 3-0-0 to start the season for the first time since 2003, while the Senators try to handle the NHL's best goal-scorer over the past seven seasons.

-- Matt Mankiewich,
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