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Thrashers try to end jinx against Capitals

by Dan Rosen

THRASHERS (34-31-12) at CAPITALS (49-15-12)

Last 10 -- Atlanta 6-2-2; Washington 5-2-3

Season series -- The Capitals have owned the season series so far, winning all four meetings in regulation by a combined score of 22-10. Washington and Atlanta play once more, on April 9 at Washington, to conclude the season series.

Big story -- Once again we have to write that while the Capitals are just playing out the string, waiting for the playoffs, their opponent most definitely is not. In fact, the Caps have a chance to help determine their first-round opponent considering, they play the Thrashers and Boston Bruins twice each before the regular season ends. Atlanta needs to build on the 3-2 win it picked up in Toronto on Tuesday by figuring out how to beat the Capitals, who are winless in three straight. They are two points behind the Bruins, who are hosting Florida.

Team Scope:

Thrashers -- It's crunch time, and the Thrashers' schedule is intimidating. Atlanta did itself a favor by winning in Toronto on Tuesday, but now it faces a final stretch of five games against three of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. The Thrashers play Washington and Pittsburgh twice each and host New Jersey. Both games against the Capitals are at the Verizon Center, where the home team is 27-5-5 this season. Atlanta trails Boston for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and is also trying to stave off the Rangers, who remain four points out of the playoffs with a game in hand on the Thrashers.

Capitals -- They are starting to stir a bit in the nation's capital as their beloved team appears a bit sluggish and maybe, just maybe has taken its foot off the pedal. The Capitals have given up five goals in each of the last two games while losing to teams (Calgary and Ottawa) that rank in the bottom half in the League in terms of offense. Jose Theodore was pulled from the game against the Flames but was allowed to finish the 5-4 overtime loss to the Senators on Tuesday night. He still hasn't lost in regulation in his last 20 decisions, but he has fallen off his game a bit. The first period has been the Capitals biggest bugaboo. The Flames and Senators combined to outshoot Washington by a combined 26-8 and outscore it by a combined 7-2 in the first 20 minutes.

Who's hot -- Washington's Alexander Semin scored two goals Tuesday night to give him five over his last five games. He has at least one point in each of those games. … Nik Antropov has scored in two straight games for the Thrashers and rookie Niclas Bergfors has points in three in a row.

Injury report -- The Thrashers hope Evander Kane (broken foot, missed 14 games) can return by the weekend. Pavel Kubina left Tuesday's game, but his status remains uncertain. The Capitals list Scott Walker, Boyd Gordon, Brooks Laich, Brendan Morrison and Shaone Morrisonn as day to day. Defenseman Milan Jurcina (abdominal surgery) is out.

Stat pack -- In the last two seasons, the Capitals are 7-1-1 in the month of April, including a 5-0-1 mark in games at VerizonCenter.

Puck drop -- "It's been a must-win for the last month or so it feels like," Thrashers forward Colby Armstrong said. "We know what the schedule is. Five games left and we've got some tough teams coming up. We're going to have to get rested up here as best we can for this last push. It's really close."

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