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Thrashers-Flyers Preview

NHL.com @NHL

The Atlanta Thrashers finally have first place to themselves.

They'll try to extend their lead in the Southeast Division when they visit the lowly Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.

The Thrashers (37-24-10) have won six of their last seven games to get to 84 points, two ahead of Tampa Bay in the division. Both teams have 11 games remaining and they meet in their final regular-season contest on April 7.

Atlanta beat Washington 4-2 on Monday night to gain the advantage, one the team hopes to maintain as it tries for the first playoff berth in franchise history.

"It's great for our confidence," said forward Eric Boulton, who had two assists. "Come playoff time, to get home-ice advantage is huge, and for us to gain confidence here is great. It's a great atmosphere here."

After visiting Philadelphia (19-40-11), the Thrashers return to Atlanta to begin a three-game homestand. They've won five straight home games, one of the reasons they have managed to stay in the division race.

"Slowly but surely, we're building home-ice advantage, and it's such a key," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said.

Atlanta hasn't been so good on the road lately, losing five of its last seven, and the Thrashers have been terrible against the Flyers, who have an NHL-worst 49 points.

Philadelphia has won five straight in the series and eight of the last nine overall meetings between the teams. The Thrashers are 0-for-14 on the power play in three losses this season.

While Atlanta failed to score a power-play goal on Monday, it did get production from several players. Four players scored for the Thrashers and Marian Hossa assisted on Slava Kozlov's goal in the first period, extending his team-record point streak to 11 games.

Hossa, who has seven goals and 11 assists during the streak, is tied with Ottawa's Dany Heatley for fourth in the league in scoring with 90 points. He needs two points to match his career high from last season, his first with the Thrashers.

Hossa has only one point in three games against Philadelphia this season, though, and Atlanta has been outscored 10-5 in those contests.

Except for their success against the Thrashers, the Flyers have endured a difficult season. Philadelphia is already eliminated from playoff contention and has lost nine of its past 12 games.

With 60 points, Washington is the closest team in the Eastern Conference to Philadelphia, and the Flyers are 27 points behind the fourth-place New York Rangers in the Atlantic Division.

The Flyers are scoreless on the power play in their last four games and just 2-for-50 with the man advantage in their past 12 contests. They were 0-for-4 in a 3-2 loss to Dallas on Tuesday night and Mike Modano's 500th career goal provided the winning margin for the Stars.

"It's unfortunate that it happened against us," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "He's been a great player for a long time. It's a great milestone for him. But I thought we got better as the night went on. We had a lot of fight and had our chances there at the end."

Philadelphia, which has only seven wins in 33 home games, hopes to have leading scorer Simon Gagne back in the lineup Thursday. Gagne, who has 37 goals and 56 points, has missed the last two games with a left groin injury.

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