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Thrashers-Kings Preview @NHLdotcom
Thrashers-Kings Preview

GAME: Atlanta Thrashers (23-18-6) at Los Angeles Kings (28-18-2).

TIME: Thursday, 10:30 p.m. EST.

The Atlanta Thrashers are playing the best hockey of their six-season history.

The Thrashers will look to extend their franchise-record winning streak as they host the Los Angeles Kings.

Atlanta beat the Dallas Stars 5-2 on Wednesday for its fifth straight victory and first-ever win over Dallas. The Thrashers had won four straight on two other occasions, most recently from Dec. 5-12, 2003.

Marian Hossa scored twice for Atlanta, which has not lost since a 4-3 defeat to the NHL-leading Carolina Hurricanes. The Thrashers, who have won seven of their last eight overall, are sixth in the Eastern Conference.

"This is a big step for us," coach Bob Hartley said. "Who knows how many points it's going to take to get into the playoffs. It's going to be a fight for us."

Kari Lehtonen, coming off his first shutout of the season in Friday's 2-0 win over St. Louis, won his fifth straight game. Lehtonen, who suffered a groin injury in the season opener, has made eight starts this season.

While Hossa netted two goals, Ilya Kovalchuk had his career-high eight-game points streak end. Kovalchuk, who had 11 goals and seven assists during his streak, leads the NHL with 34 goals.

The Kings have lost four of five, including Tuesday's 4-1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Dustin Brown scored for Los Angeles, which was coming off Saturday's embarrassing 10-1 loss at Buffalo.

Goalie Mathieu Garon left the game after the first period because of a bruised shoulder and was replaced by Jason LaBarbera, who rejoined the Kings on Monday after a brief conditioning assignment with Manchester of the AHL.

"I was cut from a shot, and I can only move my arm a little bit right now," Garon said. "Nothing in my shoulder is broken, but I'm having more tests."

Luc Robitaille, who has more goals than any other left wing in NHL history (660), became the 23rd player to play in 1,400 regular-season games in Tuesday's defeat.

STANDINGS: Thrashers - 52 points, 2nd place, 14 PB, Southeast Division. Kings - 58 points, 2nd place, 4 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 34 goals and 66 points; Marc Savard, 43 assists; Andy Sutton, 78 PIM. Kings - Pavol Demitra, 20 goals and 50 points; Craig Conroy and Lubomir Visnovsky, 32 assists; Sean Avery, 172 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Thrashers - Power play: 20.8 percent (69 for 331), 4th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.2 percent (240 for 303), 27th. Kings - Power play: 15.3 percent (50 for 327), 25th. Penalty killing: 80.2 percent (239 for 298), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Thrashers - Lehtonen (6-2-0, 1 SO, 2.57 GAA); Mike Dunham (4-3-1, 1, 2.10). Kings - Garon (20-11-0, 2, 2.74); LaBarbera (8-7-2, 3.10).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Thrashers, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 10, 2003; Thrashers, 4-3, OT. At Atlanta, Savard scored his second goal of the game with 1:23 left in overtime.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Thrashers - 10-11-2 on the road; Kings - 15-7-0 at home.

Associated Press

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