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Atlanta Thrashers At Toronto Maple Leafs: Thrashers Can Regain Eighth Place With A Win Tonight

It obviously hasn't been the best road for the Atlanta Thrashers over the past month and a half. Owners of a 2-5-3 streak in the last ten games, the Thrashers have won just twice in regulation over the last 20. The team's slumped their way out of the eighth place in the Eastern Conference after being as high as second place in December. You can almost trace the slump back to the team's last convincing win, which happened to come against these same Maple Leafs, 6-3 in Toronto.

That the Thrashers are playing the Leafs should give them little solace, as the last time the two teams met , the Maple Leafs pounded Atlanta 9-3, scoring five powerplay goals. Luckily for Atlanta, Ben Eager is no longer with them to cause a five minute penalty kill to be necessary. While the Thrashers have lost seven of their last 10 road games, they tend to do well against the Maple Leafs at Toronto, just as the Leafs tend do do well against the Thrashers while in Atlanta.

The Thrashers seemed more focus in picking up a point in Carolina Saturday night, with goals scored by defensemen Brent Sopel and Zach Bogosian. Unfortunately, Tobias Enstrom is still out with a broken finger, and Dustin Byfuglien hasn't managed to score in 13 games. He is now tied for the team lead in goals with fellow former Blackhawk Andrew Ladd - each have 16. Hardly anyone's managed to score on the powerplay. What was once a potent offensive weapon has gone just five-for-forty over the last thirteen games. The powerplay's now ranked ninth in the league, and the penalty kill is still an awful 29th at a 76.2% effectiveness rate.

The last time the Thrashers scored more than three goals in a game was their Jan. 2 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Truthfully, their ability to score three goals Saturday night was a pleasant surprise. Luckily, the Maple Leafs are having scoring issues as well. All-Star Phil Kessel is goal-less in his past eleven games, though he is still second on his team with 19 goals.

Tonight's game, like every game for the remainder of the season, is a must win. Games like Saturday and even last Thursday night's games seem to signal a turn in the right direction. They were games that, had the team not been mired in this losing stretch, wouldn't've been upsetting to lose. As it stands every game is painful to lose because it negates a strong start point by point. Carolina doesn't play until tomorrow night against the surging New Jersey Devils. Getting a hold of eighth place would be a good way to start off a winning streak.

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