The Atlanta Thrashers are mired in their longest losing streak in nearly six years, but if they plan on overcoming those struggles, they'll have to end their shortcomings against the Minnesota Wild.
The Thrashers look to avoid their ninth straight defeat and earn the franchise's first victory over the Wild as the teams play on Friday at Philips Arena.
|The Thrashers suffered their eighth-straight defeat at the hands of the Hurricanes on Wednesday. They seek to stop the bleeding as well as beat the Minnesota Wild for the first time in franchise history tonight. (AP Photo/John Bazemore
Atlanta (29-32-7) had a three-game winning streak from Feb. 9-15, but has since lost eight straight. The Thrashers, who were able to salvage points in three of their last four defeats, are mired in their worst skid since going 0-8-1 from Oct. 11-29, 2002.
This is also their longest winless stretch since going 0-8-0 with two ties from Jan. 22-Feb. 11, 2004.
The Thrashers are coming off a 6-3 home loss to Southeast Division-leading Carolina on Wednesday. Left wing Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and an assist for the Thrashers, who held an early 1-0 lead before giving up four straight goals.
"We got a good start," goaltender Johan Hedberg told the Thrashers' official Web site. "We were up 1-0 (and) for some reason we got away from things we're supposed to do. If we keep doing this to ourselves it's going to be a long end of the season."
Atlanta, which won the Southeast last season and advanced to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, has just 65 points - ahead of only Tampa Bay in the East.
"We're battling and fighting for our lives," said coach Don Waddell, whose team has 14 games to make up the 11-point gap between itself and eighth-place Philadelphia for the conference's final playoff spot.
A lack of production has contributed to the Thrashers' struggles as they have just 17 goals during their slide, and Kovalchuk - second in the NHL with 43 goals - has just three goals and three assists in their eight losses.
It might be hard for Kovalchuk to get something going on Friday. He has one goal in four career games against the Wild, who are 5-0-0 with a tie in the all-time series. Minnesota (37-26-5) has also outscored Atlanta 23-12 in those contests, and came away with a 5-1 home victory on Jan. 2, 2007, in the most recent meeting.
|The Wild hope to pick themselves back up after yesterday's 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
The Wild offense hasn't been as dominant lately, however, finishing with three or fewer goals in nine straight games, and are coming off a 3-2 loss to Carolina on Thursday.
Minnesota also failed to score in its six power-play chances, extending its drought to 14 opportunities over the last three games. The Wild will oppose a Thrashers team that has killed 19 of 20 penalties in its last four contests.
"We tried everyone," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I got tired of trying the same guys all the time. So I put the checkers in and they did the exact same thing - no goal."
The Wild are 3-5-1 since Feb. 19, but still tied with the Calgary Flames atop the Northwest.
"The urgency has to be there right now," right wing Brian Rolston said. "We're right in the thick of things. We have to realize that. I thought we have. I thought we battled hard. We made a couple of mistakes but we have to come out harder at the start of the game."
Goaltender Josh Harding made 25 saves on Thursday, but has never faced Atlanta.
Minnesota has not played at Atlanta since a 6-4 victory on March 9, 2003.