There were plenty of long stares at nothing in particular from players in the Atlanta Thrashers
' dressing room late Thursday night.
The silence was a combination of frustration and disbelief for a team that squandered an opportunity in a season with precious few remaining.
"We were in this position a few games ago and played a game where we could have jumped ahead and came out and didn't play our best," Atlanta forward Colby Armstrong
said. "At least we played a good game. We can take some positives from that and move forward. But letting chances like that slip away – we're coming down to less and less games left here so we have to take advantage."
The biggest challenge for Atlanta remains simple math. The Thrashers are two points behind a three-team tie for spots six, seven and eight in the Eastern Conference with four contests to play. Montreal, Boston and Philadelphia also have an extra game left to accumulate points.
Beyond that, the immediate issue at hand is making sure this 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Washington Capitals
does not linger. The Thrashers played well and kept the League's top team in check, but were unable to close the deal.
"We have a day off here to get back and regroup," Armstrong said. "We have another good team – one of the top teams in the East again. We've got our challenges ahead of us, but if we play solid and move ahead like we did I think we will give ourselves a chance."
"We've got our challenges ahead of us, but if we play solid and move ahead like we did I think we will give ourselves a chance." -- John Anderson
Part of what made Thursday night so disheartening for the Thrashers were losses by Boston and Philadelphia. Had they forged a victory against Washington the Thrashers would wake up Friday in a four-way tie for sixth place.
Those stumbles by the Bruins and Flyers can also be a reason to not yield hope. Philadelphia has a mess in net and Boston can't score goals. Both of these flaws were on display Thursday, and those teams are playing like they can be caught.
"We've played a game every other day. We've never had two days off since the Olympic break, so guys are tired and it is attrition," Atlanta coach John Anderson
said. "I'm really proud of how hard we're playing, and we've had to change our style a little bit because of it through injuries and mental fatigue. Every game is do or die and this is why that happens. Guys start squeezing their sticks a little tighter and it becomes more difficult to score."
The schedule is not going to do the Thrashers any favors. There is still another game at Verizon Center against the Capitals to come, plus two contests with the Pittsburgh Penguins
and one with the New Jersey Devils
could be back in the lineup Saturday after missing 15 games with a broken foot and could provide a jolt of enthusiasm. One thing is for sure, there isn't any time left for anything but results.
"We're behind and we've got to win," Anderson said. "That doesn't mean anything. It just means it has given us another chance, but we've got to find ways and get some points. Otherwise, everything stays the same and we're out of the playoffs. We've got to make something happen."