Thrashers looking to avoid letdown

By Guy Curtright

Staff Correspondent

ATLANTA - The Thrashers followed up a 5-0 victory over Boston with a 5-2 loss to the Bruins two days later. Atlanta can't suffer a similar letdown against Carolina.

The Thrashers, 5-4 overtime victors at Carolina on Wednesday, play the Hurricanes again tonight and can move to within a point of the Southeast Division lead with a victory at Philips Arena.

Carolina is 20-17-4 for 44 points, while Atlanta is 20-20-1 for 41 points at the midpoint of the NHL season.

The Thrashers have enjoyed their most success in games that go past the regulation 60 minutes. They are 5-0 in overtime after the victory at Carolina and 4-1 in shootouts.

Marian Hossa scored the game-winner against the Hurricanes on a power play with 31.5 seconds left in overtime. He had scored just one goal in his previous 12 games.

Ilya Kovalchuk drew a hooking call to give the Thrashers the power play and then set up Hossa for the deciding goal.

Kovalchuk had a four-point game, picking up his NHL-leading 33rd goal and three assists. He has recorded at least two points in 16 of his past 33 games and has 57 points for the season.

After starting 11-4-3, Carolina once had a commanding lead in the Southeast Division. But the Hurricanes have struggled for more than a month and are now in danger of being caught by the Thrashers, who started 0-6-0.

Kari Lehtonen will be back in goal tonight for the Thrashers. He had started eight consecutive games before Johan Hedberg got the call in Carolina.

Tonight's meeting with the Hurricanes begins a season-longest five-game homestand for the Thrashers. They play Buffalo on Sunday, Philadelphia on Tuesday, Florida on Thursday and Pittsburgh next Saturday. Mark Recchi had a goal in Carolina and has 12 points in 12 games since being claimed off waivers by the Thrashers from Pittsburgh. Bobby Holik has goals in three consecutive games for the Thrashers.

SideBar: Hurricanes at Thrashers

· When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

· Where: Philips Arena

· TV/radio: SportSouth/680-AM