The Atlanta Thrashers have performed fairly well against the Southeast Division this season, going 6-4-4. Two losses and two overtime losses are thanks to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are one of two Southeast Division teams this season that the Thrashers have or could lose the season series to. The other is the Carolina Hurricanes, who the Thrashers are 0-0-2 against. Luckily, the Thrashers only have to play the Bolts six games this season. Even luckier, the last two games against Tampa Bay come tonight and Sunday. This is the Thrashers' last chance to get four points on a team that's leading Atlanta by seven. Clearly, the losses against Tampa Bay this year are hurting the Thrashers in the standings, but it's better late than never to win a few games.
The Thrashers are badly banged up, with Jim Slater, Fredrik Modin, and Chris Mason all on the injured reserve. Evander Kane practiced just yesterday this week for 10 minutes, and will be out again tonight - though chances are good that he won't play. The situation got so bad that Tuesday, the team practiced with Zach Bogosian as a forward. While it might be interesting to see Bogosian as a forward for a game, the games against Tampa are too important to experiment with. The team then decided to send Spencer Machacek back to the Chicago Wolves, so they could recall Tim Stapleton and Nigel Dawes. Stapleton has been recalled several times by the Thrashers, while Dawes began the season with the team before being demoted to the Chicago Wolves.
Hopefully Dawes and Stapleton can add more to defensive play than offensive play tonight, as the Lightning scorers have the Thrashers' number. Vincent Lecavalier has four of his goals this season against Atlanta. Martin St. Louis has five assists. And, of course, Steven Stamkos has been lethal. Stamkos, who leads the league in goals with 35, has had six goals and three assists for nine points in four games against Atlanta this year. Obviously the goal of "cover Stamkos" has been lost on Atlanta's defense.
Ondrej Pavelec has been solid against Tampa this year, being in net for both of the losses that came in extra time. He has a 1.90 and a .938 SV% against the Lightning, which shows how difficult it has been for the Thrashers to defeat Tampa Bay. The Lightning's goaltender tonight, Dwayne Roloson, is 7-0-1 against Atlanta all time with a 2.99 GAA.
Bogosian is the team's healthy scratch tonight. Coach Craig Ramsay said that Freddy Meyer's play against Florida earned him another start.