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Thrashers-Panthers Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Atlanta Thrashers (36-32-6) at Florida Panthers (34-32-9).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EDT.

Time is running out on the Atlanta Thrashers and Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Both teams look to close in on one of the final postseason spots in the conference when the Southeast Division rivals meet for the seventh time this season.

The Thrashers are in ninth place in the East with 78 points, while the Panthers are one point behind them. Both clubs trail Montreal and Tampa Bay for the final two playoff spots.

The Thrashers are 4-2 against the Panthers this season, but both losses have came in Florida. Atlanta has lost three straight road games and is coming off a 6-4 defeat to Ottawa on Monday.

The Thrashers scored three power-play goals for the first time since Jan. 1, but goalie Kari Lehtonen allowed five straight goals as the Senators put the game out of reach.

"We can't give up six goals when we're in a playoff race, that's too much," forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "Eight games left - we have to prepare ourselves better than tonight."

Lehtonen, pulled after 49 minutes, has allowed five or more goals in three of his last five games.

The second-year goalie has started the last 26 games for Atlanta, going 13-13 with a 3.09 goals-against average in that span. He is 4-1 all-time against the Panthers with a 2.22 GAA and one shutout.

Kovalchuk extended the Thrashers' single-season goal record with his 48th of the season, and has three goals in the last two games. He added two assists and Marc Savard also had two assists as both broke former Thrasher Dany Heatley's team mark of 89 points in a season set in 2002-03.

The Panthers have won a franchise record-tying five straight at home, but fell for the second time in three games overall with a 4-1 loss to the Lightning on Monday.

Florida was outshot 14-5 and fell behind 2-0 after one period.

"They came out strong in the first and pretty much sealed the game right there," said goalie Roberto Luongo, who lost for just the third time in his last 13 games.

Luongo is 6-10-2 all-time against the Thrashers with a 3.08 GAA.

Florida leading scorer Olli Jokinen has only one goal in his last seven games, but scored twice in the last matchup with the Thrashers on March 6, a 4-3 shootout loss.

These teams conclude their season series on April 18.

STANDINGS: Thrashers - 78 points, 3rd place, 26 PB, Southeast Division. Panthers - 77 points, 4th place, 27 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 48 goals; Savard, 64 assists; Kovalchuk and Savard, 91 points; Andy Sutton, 128 PIM. Panthers - Jokinen, 34 goals, 45 assists and 79 points; Chris Gratton, 96 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Thrashers - Power play: 19.3 percent (94 for 488), 7th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.4 percent (358 for 451), 26th. Panthers - Power play: 15.1 percent (57 for 378), 26th. Penalty killing: 83.1 percent (388 for 467), 14th.

GOALTENDERS: Thrashers - Lehtonen (19-15-0, 2 SO, 2.96 GAA); Mike Dunham (4-4-1, 1, 2.65). Panthers - Luongo (33-28-9, 4, 2.94); Jamie McLennan (1-4-0, 2.95).

SEASON SERIES: Thrashers, 4-2.

LAST MEETING: March 6; Thrashers, 4-3 (SO). At Atlanta, Slava Kozlov scored the lone goal in the shootout and Lehtonen made 40 saves.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Thrashers - 15-19-2 on the road; Panthers - 23-9-4 at home.

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