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Thrashers running out of time as they visit Isles

by David Kalan
THRASHERS (30-30-12) at ISLANDERS (29-33-12)


Last 10 --
Atlanta 5-4-1; New York 6-1-3

Season series -- The Thrashers have taken two of three from the Islanders this season, though New York won the last meeting, a 4-1 victory on Feb. 1 at Philips Arena.

Big story -- The 2010-11 season is winding down and while the Islanders are likely looking to next season at this point, the Thrashers are still in the running for the final playoff spot -- albeit barely. Atlanta will try to get some traction towards a postseason berth when it visits New York.

Team scope:

Thrashers -- With 10 games to play in the season, the Thrashers are nine points out of the final playoff spot in the East, and while that doesn't rule out a postseason berth just yet, it is looking awfully unlikely. Atlanta currently sits 11th in the East and has struggled to keep pace in the race lately -- the Thrashers haven't won in regulation since Feb. 11. That kind of struggle could mean this is Atlanta's last gasp if it is going to make any sort of run at the final spot, and while the order is tall, the Thrashers do have at least one game in hand on each team ahead of them in the standings.

They didn't do themselves any favors on Saturday, however, coming on the short end of a rough 8-2 loss to Buffalo, which currently occupies the eighth spot. The offense has few people pitching in consistently, though Evander Kane does have 4 points in his last four games, but the bigger issue may be in net, where Ondrej Pavelec, despite a strong season, has given up three goals in each of his last five appearances.

Islanders -- With New York sitting 13th in the East and 11 points back of the final spot with eight games to play, the Islanders don't figure to have any impact on the postseason beyond playing a spoiler role. But the Isles, who have had a very strong second half, seem to be taking on that role with relish as they get experience for a young roster that is showing a tremendous amount of promise. New York just finished a five-game road trip in which they suffered only one regulation loss, and has won two straight, including an impressive 5-2 win in Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.

In addition, Rick DiPietro got a win over Florida last week in his first start in more than a month, but the goaltending job appears to be Al Montoya's to lose now. Montoya has gone 8-3-4 with a 2.37 goals-against average and .922 save percentage since arriving in mid-February. As well, with Frans Nielsen (4 points in his last three games) and Michael Grabner (2 points in each of his last three games) helping to pick up the offensive slack, the Islanders are starting to look like a team that, while it will be home this spring, is one no one wants to play over the season's final weeks.

Who's hot --
PA Parenteau has been one of several Islanders giving the team a surprising boost in the second half, tallying 9 points in his last nine games. … It's unusual that the man leading your offense is on the back end, and while defenseman Ron Hainsey may not be Bobby Orr, he has done just that lately, picking up 5 points in his last four games for the Thrashers.

Injury report --
While the Thrashers currently have Freddy Meyer (head injury) and Jim Slater (concussion) on IR, neither Atlanta nor New York has seen any players head to the injured reserve list from the active roster in over a month.

Stat pack --
John Tavares is only in his second full season with the Islanders, but after being a strong performer most of the campaign he may still be showing signs of fading as the NHL's typical grind wears on. Tavares has scored just three times in his last 16 games.

Puck drop -- As the Thrashers enter the final 10 games of their season, a playoff berth is a longshot, but not impossible. To stay in the hunt, however, Atlanta may need to run the table and with the Isles playing well of late, it could be a sizeable challenge to get the ball rolling Thursday night in Long Island.

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