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Disappointing Panthers

The Atlanta Thrashers haven't won consecutive games in almost three weeks. The Florida Panthers would be satisfied with just one victory at this point.

Two of the NHL's most disappointing teams each look to bounce back from a loss when the Southeast Division rivals meet Thursday night in Atlanta.'

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Atlanta -120 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 69% of bets for this game have been placed on Florida +110 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

Two points separate the second-place Thrashers (21-22-1) from the third-place Panthers (19-21-3). While both are within striking distance of first-place Carolina in the division, they have struggled to win consistently and remain just out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta lost 4-1 to Philadelphia on Tuesday to slip to 1-2-0 on its five-game homestand. The Thrashers, who won their first division title last season, lost their first six games this season and endured the firing of coach Bob Hartley. They have alternated wins and losses in their last six contests.

The Thrashers haven't won back-to-back games since winning four in a row from Dec. 18-23.

"We cannot take the next step,'' said goaltender Johan Hedberg, who made 25 saves and had his two-game winning streak snapped Tuesday. "It's really hard right now. ... We cannot come in and play one night and not the next.''

Ilya Kovalchuk scored his league-leading 35th goal Tuesday, but Atlanta's offense remained inconsistent. The Thrashers have scored 15 goals in their last three wins, but just six in their last three defeats.

Tuesday, Atlanta led 1-0, but allowed four second-period goals and failed on all four power-play chances. The Thrashers are 0-for-8 with the man advantage in their last three contests.

"We play good in one game and don't play good the next," Atlanta captain Bobby Holik said. "It's the attitude, it's the approach. It has nothing to do with the schedule. It's the frame of mind. We know the reason, but we first have to solve it internally.''

Facing the Panthers could help.

Atlanta is 2-1-0 versus Florida this season. Kovalchuck has four goals and four assists in the three games, including three goals and three assists in two home games versus the Panthers.

Florida, though, won 5-3 at Atlanta on Dec. 27 in the teams' most recent meeting to snap an 11-game road losing streak in the series.

The Panthers look to avoid losing three in a row after falling 3-1 to Pittsburgh on Tuesday to get swept in a home-and-home series with the Penguins.

Gregory Campbell scored a short-handed goal for Florida, which has lost five of six while being outscored 18-8 during that span.

"I don't think there's any spark around here right now,'' said Florida captain Olli Jokinen, the team's leader with 20 goals who has gone five straight games without one. "I'm running out of answers. I don't know what to say, seriously. It's embarrassing.''

Jokinen, who has 14 goals lifetime versus Atlanta, has just two assists in three games against the Thrashers this season. Forward Nathan Horton had two goals in the most recent meeting and has three overall versus the Thrashers in 2007-08.

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun has lost five in a row since beating Atlanta last month to snap a five-game losing streak against the Thrashers.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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