There's no guarantee that Atlanta Thrashers coach Bob Hartley will start goaltender Kari Lehtonen against the Washington Capitals on Friday night. Lehtonen's career record against the Caps, though, might earn him another chance to get things turned around.
Lehtonen looks to bounce back from being pulled from the Thrashers' last game as he tries to beat Washington for the third time this season when the teams meet at the Verizon Center.
Hartley replaced Lehtonen in the second period of Wednesday night's 5-2 home loss to Carolina, yanking him in the second period after Lehtonen gave up four goals on just 13 shots. Lehtonen has given up 17 goals over his previous four starts, including four in each of his last three appearances, and was pulled for the first time this season.
"That's just the way it sometimes goes," Lehtonen said. "I didn't think they were good shots. They shouldn't have gone in."
The defeat to the Hurricanes was the fourth in five games for the Thrashers (8-3-3) - all of which have been started by Lehtonen. While Hartley might consider giving his No. 1 goalie a night off Friday, though, Lehtonen's work against the Caps (4-3-4) will be hard to ignore.
Lehtonen is 5-0 with a 2.33 goals-against average against the Capitals, and defeated them in back-to-back starts Oct. 14 and 19, both times by a 4-3 score. He made 35 saves in the first meeting as the Thrashers won in overtime, and lifted Atlanta to a shootout victory in the second matchup, stopping 27 shots.
While Atlanta has issues in goal, the Thrashers haven't scored much during the recent slump. They outshot the Hurricanes 42-18, including an NHL season single-game high 16 from Marian Hossa, but managed only two goals in three of the four losses.
Hossa scored his eighth power-play goal of the season Wednesday, tying him for the overall goal lead with the New York Rangers' Brendan Shanahan at 11, but that was the only goal Atlanta would score in 10 power-play chances. The Thrashers are 2-for-27 on the power play over the last five games.
"The power play was playing like five individuals and not a five-man unit," Thrashers defenseman Greg de Vries said.
The Capitals, though, haven't been very effective in short-handed situations this season, killing off just 81.8 percent (54-of-66) of opponents' power plays.
Thrashers left wing Ilya Kovalchuk's six-game goal streak and eight-game point streak ended Wednesday. The point streak started when he had a goal and two assists in the first meeting with Washington. Kovalchuk recorded nine goals and eight assists in October.
In the Thrashers' second victory of the season over the Caps, Hossa scored the tying goal with 33 seconds left in regulation and had a goal in the shootout. Washington is 0-3 in shootouts this season.
Washington returns to the Verizon Center after going 2-1-1 on a four-game road trip. The Capitals, who won 4-2 at Calgary on Monday, play their final 71 games in the Eastern time zone.
Capitals coach Glen Hanlon moved Richard Zednik to the fourth line against the Flames and got results, as Zednik delivered with his first two goals of the season. Zednik had 16 goals in 67 games with Montreal last season before Washington acquired him for a third-round pick in July.
"You could feel it on the bench, you could see it in his body language, the relief and exuberance that he showed," Hanlon said.
Dainius Zubrus scored twice, and Ovechkin added two assists for the Caps.