Even with the playoffs out of reach, the Atlanta Thrashers had been playing some of their best hockey of the season this month. That was until their last two games.
The Thrashers look to avoid a third straight loss Saturday night when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning in a matchup of two of the bottom three teams in the Eastern Conference.
While Atlanta (29-37-6) is just three points better than Tampa Bay - ahead of only the last-place New York Islanders in the East - the Thrashers had won a franchise-high six straight games before a 6-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Tuesday. They didn't fare much better Friday, losing 6-3 at home to West-leading Detroit.
"That was a good test for us, but I think we didn't pass it," Atlanta left wing and former Red Wing Slava Kozlov told the Thrashers' official Web site after the loss to his old club.
Kozlov had a goal with an assist and Colin Stuart and Bryan Little added goals for Atlanta. Little has six goals in his last eight games to bring his total to 31 in his second NHL season.
"I thought we competed, but we're still in the growing stage," first-year Thrashers coach John Anderson said.
Veteran center Todd White had an assist Friday to extend his point streak to eight games. White has a career-high 64 points, including two goals and one assist in four games versus the Lightning this season as Atlanta has gone 2-1-1 in the season series. The Thrashers won the most recent meeting 3-1 at Tampa Bay on Feb. 10.
Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen made 32 saves Friday, but lost for the first time in five starts. Johan Hedberg could be in goal for this half of the back-to-back.
Hedberg is 5-5-1 with a tie and a 3.31 GAA lifetime versus Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay (23-33-15) looks to avoid a season-high sixth straight home loss after falling 5-2 to Washington on Thursday.
Rookie Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis each scored and Matt Lashoff added two assists for the Lightning, who have dropped eight of their last nine on home ice.
St. Louis has five goals and five assists during a seven-game point streak. The Lightning's leading scorer with 72 points, St. Louis has four goals and two assists in the season series against Atlanta.
Stamkos, meanwhile, has six goals and five assists in his last 11 contests overall.
"The last six weeks his game has elevated," interim coach Rick Tocchet told the Lightning's official Web site of Stamkos, the first overall draft pick in 2008. "The guy is going to be a special player."
Rookie Mike McKenna made 25 saves Thursday, but Karri Ramo could be back in net for this contest. Ramo has never faced the Thrashers.
These teams will meet again in Atlanta on April 11 to conclude the regular season.