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Hurricanes At Thrashers: Yet Another Game For Eighth Place Between Carolina And Atlanta

The Tampa Bay Lightning can't even do the Thrashers a favor when they're not playing each other. Last night, the Lightning were leading the Hurricanes 3-1 with just a minute to go. Needless to say, they got together, conferred with each other and just said "You know what? Let's let 'em get a point just to get at Atlanta." And then they did.

Granted, that conversation never happened, but it might as well have. The Lightning allowed two quick goals to get their game into overtime, and then promptly won it 4-3. The extra point puts the Hurricanes back into eighth place by virtue of the fact that they've played one game fewer than the Thrashers. The ability to make the playoffs was always in the hands of the Thrashers, and the fact that they're now tied with the 'Canes can very easily be traced back to an implosion of sorts that has stretched across a quarter of a season.

The Hurricanes might be a bit winded from their game Saturday night, and this could play into the Thrashers' favor. Of course, something that would play into Atlanta's favor the most would be not forcing the game into extra time. Every one of Atlanta's games against the Hurricanes has been decided in overtime or a shootout, but the Thrashers haven't been on the winning end of that yet. The fact that Atlanta picked up three points in those games is a lifesaver, but preventing Carolina from getting six points in that same stretch would have been much more useful.

Chances are good that Cam Ward starts again tonight. He started last night in Tampa Bay, giving up three goals and facing a barrage of 41 shots. Ward responds when he is peppered with shots, and the Thrashers have been shooting more of late. They managed 35 shots on Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist on Friday night in their 3-2 win.

The return of defenseman Tobias Enstrom from a broken finger on his right hand seemed to spark some motivation in the Thrashers, who noticeably lagged without him. Evander Kane played an outstanding game on Friday night as well, as did Ondrej Pavelec and Anthony Stewart. Kane has goals in back to back games, and has six points in his last four. 

Also noticeably improving is Zach Bogosian. He had seven shots on goal Friday night, in 21:35 of ice time. This comes after a very strong showing in Toronto, where he was a +1 and had two assists in a game that saw the Thrashers allow five goals. He's second out of the team's defensemen with 90 shots on goal (Dustin Buyfuglien leads that category for the team with 237), but has a 4.3% shooting percentage.

Line combinations and defensive pairings should remain the same for tonight's game. This being a Sunday, don't forget that the puck drops at 5:00.

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