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Thrashers go for home-and-home sweep

by John McGourty
THRASHERS (31-29-11) at FLYERS (37-29-5)

Last 10 -- Atlanta 4-5-1; Philadelphia 4-4-2.

Season series -- This is the fourth meeting between the teams. Rich Peverley scored the only goal and Johan Hedberg made 34 saves in Atlanta on Nov. 28. Jim Slater scored twice and Hedberg again made 34 saves in Atlanta's 4-3 victory Jan. 28 in Philadelphia. Colby Armstrong scored twice and Hedberg made 25 saves Saturday in Atlanta in the first game of this home-and-home series.

Big story -- The Thrashers moved within one point of the eighth-place Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference, while the Flyers hold fifth place by the narrowest of margins. They are tied with the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens with 79 points, but they've played one fewer game than those teams. If the season were to end today, the Flyers would open the Stanley Cup Playoffs at their archrivals, the New Jersey Devils. If the Thrashers can seize eighth place, they would play the Washington Capitals.

Team Scope:

Thrashers -- Atlanta has won three-straight games for the first time since Nov. 30. The Thrashers were in eighth place before losing six straight from March 6-14 to fall to 11th. In his first season with the Thrashers, Nik Antropov ranks 27th in NHL scoring with 63 points on 22 goals and 41 assists. Maxim Afinogenov, also in his first season with the Thrashers, is next with 57 points on 22 goals and 35 assists.

Flyers -- Philadelphia went 1-2-1 on its four-game road trip. The Flyers lost for the third time this season to Thrashers goalie Johan Hedberg, their ninth-round draft pick in 1994. Brian Boucher fell to 5-13-2. He is the third No. 1 goalie for the Flyers this season, following injuries to Ray Emery and Michael Leighton.

Who's hot -- Armstrong had two goals and an assist Saturday against the Flyers. Antropov has six points in three games, including five goals in four games. Afinogenov has six points in three games. Nicklas Bergfors has 12 points in 16 games as a Thrasher. ... Philadelphia's Simon Gagne, Danny Briere and Mike Richards have three points in their last two games.

Injury report -- Emery is out for the season with a hip injury, while Leighton is out 8-10 weeks with an ankle injury. ... Atlanta rookie Evander Kane has missed seven games with a foot injury. Defenseman Christoph Schubert is out until early April with a hip injury. Defenseman Boris Valabik is out for the season with a knee injury.

Stat pack -- The Thrashers winning streak follows a six-game losing streak that dropped them into 13th place in the East, just a week ago. The first line of Antropov centering Bergfors and Afinogenov has eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points in the past four games.

Puck drop -- "You can talk the talk, but it comes down to how you walk. Tonight they walked with a really good swagger and good pace. We played like it was just another game." -- Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said after Saturday night's defeat in Atlanta
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