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Atlanta Thrashers vs. Florida Panthers: Thrashers Try To Play Catch-Up In The Southeast

The Thrashers aren't exactly riding high right now, despite winning 4-3 in Montreal on Sunday. Their recent record (4-4-2) doesn't reflect the fact that they haven't won a game in regulation since their 6-3 defeat of Toronto on December 20th. They've been getting the scoring, they've been getting the goaltending, but they just haven't been able to convert those two things to wins. They've had to fight a lot more to walk away with a victory, thanks to a December that left them depleted of energy and left center Jim Slater on the disabled list. That necessitated a bit of line-tweaking to include call-ups Tim Stapleton and Patrice Cormier. From the Blueland Blog, here were the lines for Sunday and the probable lines for tonight:

Ladd- Little- Antropov
Kane- Burmistrov- Thorburn
Modin- Peverley- Stewart
Boulton- Cormier- Bergfors

Niclas Bergfors playing on the fourth line with Eric Boulton and Cormier still managed to get him an assist on Andrew Ladd's second period goal on Sunday. Bergfors is 8th on the team in scoring with 20 points, despite only playing 31 games this semester. He's sat out 11 games as a healthy scratch but tends to pick it up a notch when he's re-inserted back into the line-up.

Dustin Byfuglien's been on fire recently, scoring yet another overtime game winning goal on Sunday. So far, Buff has scored six game winners, three of which have come in overtime. The Thrashers have six overtime goals, and Byfuglien has scored half of those. He's an impact player for sure. He has a goal in the other three games that the Panthers and Thrashers have met, which isn't surprising - he leads all NHL defensemen with sixteen.

The Thrashers have scored 129 more points on the season than the Panthers have, though the most glaring instance comes during the powerplay. The Thrashers' powerplay, which is ranked 8th in the league (21.3%), has netted 33 goals so far. Despite dropping off recently, it is still lethal. The Panthers' powerplay has scored just 12 times and is the worst in the league at a tiny 9.4%.

Ondrej Pavelec has been in net for one of the three games against Florida, in which the Thrashers lost, 2-1. Pavs has gone 13-4-2 since then. He'll probably be facing off against goaltender Tomas Vokoun tonight, who has had several outstanding seasons with the Panthers despite the team's best effort to do otherwise.

2010 - Ondrej Pavelec 28 1596 14 8 57 2.14 884 827 .936 2

2010 - Tomas Vokoun 30 1680 15 13 68 2.43 918 850 .926 5

Vokoun's five shutouts are impressive, and he's helped Florida get one game over .500 and into 10th place in the Eastern Conference. Florida's not an easy team to beat, and don't need to be written off. They might not score a ton of goals (they have three players with more than ten goals as opposed to Atlanta's five with Peverley on the edge of ten), but their goaltending is more than solid enough to backstop them to a win.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.