The Atlanta Thrashers, inching closer to their first playoff berth as the regular season winds down, will try to build on their advantage when they visit the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
Atlanta is in first place in the Southeast Division and currently the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, which would give the team home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Thrashers (40-27-11), who have not made the postseason since entering the NHL in 1999-2000 as an expansion team, beat Toronto 3-2 in overtime on Thursday night to set a franchise record by getting to 91 points this season. That tops the 90 points the team had last season, when it won 41 games, a record Atlanta can tie by beating the Bruins.
"Right now, with (four) games left, we picked up one point last night and two points today," Thrashers forward Slava Kozlov said Thursday. "That was huge."
Atlanta snapped a three-game losing streak with Thursday's victory, but did earn a point in a 3-2 shootout loss to Florida the previous day.
Starting with a 3-2 win at Boston on Feb. 26, the Thrashers have gone 9-4-1 to jump back ahead of Tampa Bay and Carolina in the division, and Kozlov has been a big reason why. The 15-year veteran has seven goals and 14 points during that span, and notched his second straight two-goal game when he scored on a power play with 46.4 seconds left in overtime Thursday.
"Slava orchestrates everything and positions himself in front of the net," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "He is so poised out there that it's like he has a sixth sense."
Kozlov, who has a career-high 77 points this season, has tormented Boston with eight points in three meetings - all Atlanta victories. The Thrashers, who have lost four straight on the road since last month's win at Boston, have won five in a row over the Bruins.
Atlanta is alternating home and away games to close the season, and finishes with contests against the Hurricanes and Lightning.
The Bruins (35-36-6) were in the thick of the playoff race, but a slide over the last five weeks has dropped the team to 13th place in the East and out of postseason contention.
Boston has lost six of seven and is 5-10-2 since Feb. 24, slipping to last in the Northeast Division with 76 points.
"It's obviously a tough position, being officially out," Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara said after a 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday. "We were in the hunt for a while, but it's disappointing and we have to move on."
Barring a big winning streak to finish the season, the Bruins also will finish last in the division for the second consecutive season, though they have two more points than they accumulated in 2005-06.
Boston has lost three straight at home and 11 of 15 at TD Banknorth Garden.
The Bruins depart on a three-game road trip after Saturday before finishing the season at home against Ottawa.