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Thrashers-Devils Preview

GAME: Atlanta Thrashers (14-16-5) at New Jersey Devils (15-14-5).

TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils can't afford to worry about their coaching situation. They have more pressing matters to attend to on the ice as they prepare to host the streaking Atlanta Thrashers.

"We're just worried about what we do on the ice," the Devils goaltender said after Wednesday's night's 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders. "Whoever runs the ship will surely be a good fit for us."

Brodeur made 27 saves the same day he was selected to the Canadian Olympic team, but New Jersey suffered its seventh loss in nine games and first under interim coach Lou Lamiorello, the team's general manager who took over coaching duties when Larry Robinson stepped down Monday.

"Losing a game like tonight is a killer," Brodeur said. "These are four-point games. We have six games left against these guys. Who knows, those points might determine a playoff spot."

One bright spot for the Devils was a rare power-play goal, scored by Paul Martin midway through the third period. It was just the fourth man-advantage goal in 88 chances for the Devils over 13 games as they remain near the bottom of the league rankings on the power play.

The Thrashers have already beaten the Devils twice this season, including a 3-2 overtime victory Dec. 15 at Continental Airlines Arena in the penultimate game coached by Robinson, who cited illness and the desire to spend more time with his family as the reasons for his impromptu retirement.

Atlanta had won three in a row before Thursday's 6-5 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals. Marian Hossa, who tied a Thrashers record with five points, Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov had shots stopped by Washington goaltender Brent Johnson to leave Atlanta scoreless in the shootout.

Hossa had a goal and four assists for Atlanta, which was denied its first four-game winning streak of the season. The Thrashers have picked up points in six straight games (4-0-2) since losing five in a row.

With center Serge Aubin unable to play Thursday due to flu symptoms, the Thrashers recalled forward Karl Stewart from Chicago of the American Hockey League. Atlanta also recalled goalie Adam Berkhoel from Gwinnett of the ECHL.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 22): Thrashers - 33 points, 3rd place, 13 PB, Southeast Division. Devils - 35 points, 4th place, 11 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 22 goals; Marc Savard, 33 assists and 48 points; Eric Boulton, 61 PIM. Devils - Brian Gionta, 19 goals and 35 points; Gionta, Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski, 16 assists; Colin White, 41 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 22): Thrashers - Power play: 20.8 percent (52 for 250), tied for 4th in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.1 percent (178 for 228), 29th. Devils - Power play: 15.1 percent (32 for 212), 26th. Penalty killing: 83.5 percent (147 for 176), 10th.

GOALTENDERS: Thrashers - Michael Garnett (7-7-3, 0 SO, 3.78 GAA); Berkhoel (2-4-0, 0, 4.08). Devils - Brodeur (13-11-3, 0, 2.97); Scott Clemmensen (2-3-2, 0, 3.54).

SEASON SERIES: Thrashers, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 15; Thrashers, 3-2 (OT). At East Rutherford, N.J., Marc Savard scored with five seconds left in overtime as the Thrashers dropped Brodeur to 12-5-3 all-time against Atlanta. Brodeur did stop Hossa's penalty shot in the extra session before Savard's game-winner.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Thrashers - 6-9-2 on the road; Devils - 9-5-3 at home.

Associated Press
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