Hossa out for Ottawa

ATLANTA - A visit by the Ottawa Senators to Philips Arena would normally mean boos for Dany Heatley and extra cheers for Marian Hossa.

Unfortunately for the Atlanta Thrashers and their fans, there likely won't be opportunities to chant "Hossa! Hossa! Hossa!" tonight.

Hossa - Atlanta's leading scorer - suffered a groin strain at practice on Monday and isn't expected to play against the Senators, who are unbeaten in four games.

That's especially bad news for the Thrashers, who are winless in their first two games and face a team that is showing that its trip to the Stanley Cup Finals last season was no fluke.

Led by Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa has been as good as Atlanta has been bad so far this season and the Thrashers desperately need a quick turnaround with their early schedule one of the most difficult in the NHL.

That won't be easy if Hossa has to miss extended time.

Hossa didn't skate Tuesday and coach Bob Hartley said it is "very doubtful" that he will play against Ottawa or at Buffalo on Thursday.

The Thrashers host New Jersey on Saturday, then play eight of their next nine games on the road.

Even with Hossa, the Thrashers scored just three goals while losing to Washington and Tampa Bay.

Now Hartley will have to experiment even more with his forward lines, inserting Chris Thorburn for the first time.

A game between Atlanta and Ottawa usually focuses on Hossa and Heatley - the all-stars traded for each other prior to the 2005-2006 season.

Heatley, who requested a trade, was booed in his first game back at Philips Arena and Hossa had a big game, winning over the Atlanta fans. The reception for both has been a constant since.

Heatley, meanwhile, has definitely found a home in Ottawa, where he isn't constantly reminded of the 2002 accident that claimed the life of Thrashers teammate Dan Snyder.

Heatley, who could have become an unrestricted free agent after the season, recently signed a six-year, $45 million contract extension with the Senators.

He was second in the NHL with 50 goals last season and fourth with 105 points. This season, he already has four goals and seven points.

Hossa is in the final year of his contract and likely will receive a similar deal with the Thrashers or someone else. Thrashers general manager Don Waddell has made retaining the star right wing a top priority.

Hossa had 43 goals and was tied for sixth in the NHL with 100 points last season. Some of his best work for the Thrashers has come against Ottawa, with 15 points in the eight games.

Hossa, however, likely won't get to face his old team tonight.