Going with Craig Anderson in goal is paying major dividends for the Florida Panthers.
Anderson will try to help the Panthers improve their playoff chances and extend their winning streak to four games when they face the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday night.
Last month, the Panthers (38-28-11) endured a 1-4-3 stretch that put their playoff chances in danger, prompting coach Peter DeBoer to bench No. 1 goaltender Tomas Vokoun in favor of Anderson. The veteran backup has responded by winning three consecutive games with a 2.33 goals-against average.
Vokoun had a 2.58 GAA in the previous eight games before being replaced.
Anderson, 15-6-5 with a 2.70 GAA and three shutouts in 30 games this season, is expected to start again Friday. He made 30 saves to help Florida to a 5-2 win over Ottawa on Tuesday.
He's 2-0-1 with a 2.26 GAA in four career games against the Thrashers (33-38-6), who have been eliminated from playoff contention.
"He's been great over the past three games," said Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe, who had a goal and an assist against the Senators. "Given us an opportunity to win every night. Even when we've had slow starts, he's shut the door."
Anderson's strong play comes with Florida battling the New York Rangers, Carolina, Montreal and Buffalo for the final three Eastern Conference postseason spots. The Panthers have five games left.
"It's handling the pressure the right way and playing our game," DeBoer told the team's official Web site. "That's all you can ask. Play our game for five games here and let the chips fall where they may."
Along with Anderson's goaltending, a revived power play has been key to Florida's three-game winning streak. The Panthers rank 24th in the league with a 16.6 percent success rate but are 6-for-12 with the man advantage over the previous three contests - scoring two power-play goals in each game.
That impressive production followed a 2-for-24 effort in the previous eight games.
The Panthers look to stay hot on the power play against the Thrashers, the NHL's worst penalty-killing team at 75.1 percent. Atlanta opponents are 12-for-37 with the man advantage over the last six games.
The Thrashers, though, defeated the Sabres 3-2 in overtime Wednesday for their third consecutive win and fourth in five games.
"We are playing the spoiler role, I guess," said defenseman Zach Bogosian, who scored a goal Wednesday. "We are trying to play our hearts out. Hopefully we can do some damage around the league. We are showing right now that we are not a team to take lightly."
Atlanta has scored 18 goals in its last four victories thanks in part to Ilya Kovalchuk, who recorded a goal and an assist versus the Sabres to give him a five-game goal streak and six-game point streak. The All-Star left wing has five goals and six assists in the last six contests.
Kovalchuk is tied with Philadelphia's Jeff Carter for third in the NHL with 41 goals. He has 28 goals and 55 points - his highest total against any club - in 42 games versus Florida.