Thrashers face Lightning in push for playoffs

TAMPA -- The Thrashers and the Lightning are heading in opposite directions.

Atlanta has won two straight, is 4-0-2 in its past six games and has climbed to eighth in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Tampa Bay has lost five straight, surrendered at least five goals in each of those losses and has dropped to 11th in the standings.

It’s the Lightning’s recent performance that has drawn the attention of Thrashers coach John Anderson, whose team faces Tampa Bay Saturday night.

“They can score but they can give up a lot of goals,” Anderson said. “When we get [the puck] in their zone, we want to hold onto it. They can’t score from their own zone. If [Martin] St. Louis is checking in his own zone all the time, we are better off.”

The Lightning have an impressive roster of goal scorers. Steven Stamkos is fourth in the NHL with 38 goals. He is followed by St. Louis (22), Ryan Malone (21) and Vincent Lecavalier (17). Even with those four potent scorers, Tampa is only 21st in the NHL is goals per game at 2.60.

“They have great forwards,” Thrashers defenseman Pavel Kubina said. “They can always score goals, so we have to play well defensively. Any time they are on the ice, you have to be aware of it.”

Since the trade of Ilya Kovalchuk, Maxim Afinogenov leads the Thrashers with 20 goals. Overall, Atlanta is sixth in the league in scoring at 3.03 goals per game, outscoring Tampa Bay. However, they are 28th in goals allowed per game at 3.13.

That is what has made all five games between the Southeast Division rivals close this season. After the Thrashers’ season-opening 6-3 win, the past four games have all been decided by one goal, all of them in the Lightning’s favor. The Thrashers managed two points with an overtime and shootout loss.

“They have some high-scoring guys,” goaltender Johan Hedberg said. “They’ve played strong defense against us and I think that has been key. We have to get the puck in deep and break them down in their own zone.”


The Thrashers second-period, power-play goal from Thursday's win over the New York Islanders has been re-credited to Niclas Bergfors. The goal was originally credited to Bergfors but later awarded to Nik Antropov. A league review Friday gave the goal back to Bergfors with assists to Antropov and Zach Bogosian. ... Anderson said that Hedberg would start against the Lightning, which will be his 10th start in the past 13 games. He also did not rule out the possibility that Hedberg could also start in Sunday's game against Carolina. "We are going to stick with who is winning," Anderson said. In the past nine starts, Hedberg is 6-1-2 with a 2.44 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. ... Defensemen Ron Hainsey, Johnny Oduya and Christoph Schubert did not practice on Friday before the team departed for Tampa. Anderson said the players were off for maintenance days.