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Thrashers try to avoid season sweep by Isles

by John Kreiser /

ISLANDERS (26-28-8) at THRASHERS (27-24-10)

Last 10 -- New York 3-7-0; Atlanta 5-3-2

Season series -- It's the fourth and final meeting between the teams. The Islanders are going for a sweep, having won both games on Long Island and their previous visit to Philips Arena, 4-1 on Dec. 3.

Big story -- Both teams are still on the outside looking in on the top eight in the East, but neither has any intention of giving up. Despite a stretch that saw them lose nine of 11, the Islanders are just five points out of eighth place following Tuesday's 5-3 home win over Chicago. The Thrashers haven't shown any letdown since dealing captain Ilya Kovalchuk -- they're just one point out of a playoff berth after a 4-2 win over Florida on Tuesday night.

Team Scope

Islanders -- The Isles dealt defenseman Andy Sutton to Ottawa on Tuesday, but remained quiet on deadline day despite a raft of rumors that one of their goaltenders -- Dwayne Roloson or Martin Biron -- could/would be dealt.

Instead, they're both here for the duration, though Roloson figures to get most of the work as he has all season. The 40-year-old was brilliant in the win over Chicago, stopping 41 shots and leaving the powerful Hawks frustrated while ending a personal five-game losing streak.

Thrashers -- With a lot of home games still on their schedule, the Thrashers have their sights squarely set on making the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history.

"When we looked at the schedule, we thought that if we were close (going into March) we had a favorable schedule, in theory," coach John Anderson said after the win over Florida on Tuesday. "Now, it's what we do with it."

The Thrashers are 5-2-1 in their last eight games at Philips Arena, allowing two goals or fewer in the last four.

Who's hot -- Isles forward Blake Comeau is coming off the first hat trick of his NHL career. He also scored twice in New York's last game before the break, giving him five goals in two games. … Atlanta goaltender Johan Hedberg is 9-3-1 with a 2.48 GAA and a shutout in 14 home games, winning his last three with a 1.67 GAA.

Injury report -- The Isles got three players -- forwards Tim Jackman and Josh Bailey and defenseman Jack Hillen -- back from injuries on Tuesday. But they lost defenseman Andrew MacDonald (broken foot) for 4-6 weeks and forward Trent Hunter (upper body) for a week or two. Goaltender Rick DiPietro (swollen knee) is on IR. … Atlanta defenseman Christoph Schubert (knee) returned Tuesday; Boris Valabik is gone for the season after knee surgery.

Stat pack -- Roloson has been in net for all three wins over the Thrashers this season and is 7-0-1-1 with a 2.71 goals-against average in 10 games against them. Isles forward Matt Moulson had the first hat trick of his NHL career when the Isles came to town in December.

Puck drop -- Neither team can afford to lose this game if it hopes to make the playoffs. But while the Thrashers have been hot at home, the Isles have dropped five in a row on the road. However, New York has won its last two trips to Atlanta and owns a four-game winning streak against the Thrashers.

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