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Washington Capitals vs. Atlanta Thrashers

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GAME: Washington Capitals (21-40-8-2) at Atlanta Thrashers (27-34-7-3).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

Technically the Atlanta Thrashers are still in the playoff hunt. But they aren't putting up much of a fight.

Sitting in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, 12 points out of the final playoff spot, the Thrashers will try to end their four-game winless streak when they take on the Washington Capitals.

Beginning a four-game homestand, the Thrashers' only real chance of making the postseason is a complete collapse by the eighth-place New York Islanders and the ninth-place Buffalo Sabres. The Capitals also trail the 10th-place Florida Panthers by three points.

The Thrashers are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, dropping them to 0-2-1-1 during their slide.

Shawn McEachern and Patrik Stefan scored for the Thrashers and Pasi Nurminen made 20 saves.

"Pasi was very good tonight. It's not his fault - goalmouth passes, one-times, screened shots," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "I felt he gave us the chance to win."

Next to last in the Eastern Conference with 52 points, the Capitals have dropped three straight and six of seven, including Friday's 4-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Jeff Halpern scored on the power play in the first period for Washington, but the Capitals couldn't solve Chicago goalie Adam Munro on a five-on-three power play inside the final two minutes.

"On a five-on-three you have to score," Halpern said. "As good or bad as you play, you have to score on that. It cost us at least a tie."

STANDINGS: Capitals - 52 points, 5th place, 43 PB, Southeast Division. Thrashers - 64 points, 3rd place, 31 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Capitals - Halpern, 13 goals, 19 assists and 32 points; Darcy Verot, 106 PIM. Thrashers - Ilya Kovalchuk, 36 goals, 39 assists and 75 points; Francis Lessard, 132 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 11): Capitals - Power play: 18.9 percent (55 for 291), 6th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.5 percent (273 for 335), 26th. Thrashers - Power play: 14.7 percent (51 for 348), 21st. Penalty killing: 85.2 percent (276 for 324), 5th.

GOALTENDERS: Capitals - Olaf Kolzig (18-32-7, 2 SO, 2.87 GAA); Sebastien Charpentier (0-5-0, 3.29). Thrashers - Nurminen (23-26-6, 2, 2.80); Frederic Cassivi (no appearances).

SEASON SERIES: Capitals, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 16; Capitals, 5-0. At Atlanta, Maxime Ouellet made 37 saves in his second career start, and the since-traded Robert Lang posted two goals and two assists.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Capitals - 10-20-3-1 on the road; Thrashers - 14-15-4-1 at home.


Associated Press
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