Record: 34-32-12 (9th in the East)
The Atlanta Thrashers are still in the hunt for a playoff spot in the East, but it's not going to be easy. Judging by their 9th seed, two points behind the Bruins (who also have a game in hand), there's a good chance it could come down to the last day of the season to determine whether or not they are bound to play past next week. Needless to say, each of the four games remaining on Atlanta's calendar is a must-win game, especially since the Rangers are tied with 80 points and a game in hand as well (five total). This is that fun point in the season where you start to hear talks of magic numbers and one-and-dones (as in, losses). For Atlanta, a loss today could mean an end to their playoff run. To make matters worse, they'll be doing it without Colby Armstrong, who is currently serving a suspension for a hit to the head. Correct me if I'm wrong, but does this make him the first guy suspended since the new rules were put into effect?
Frankly, I'm rooting for Atlanta to make the playoffs. Mind you I'm not rooting for them to win today, so really I can't get both if you think about it. Given the trade of Kovalchuk earlier in the season and a discovery of hidden talent between the pipes, I think the Thrashers have put together a pretty impressive season despite moves that would, on paper at least, put them down as top contenders for a big-name draft pick. At this point not making the playoffs is almost a double kick in the pads.
For the Pens, there's no need to count numbers or sweat it out. They're in. They're playing some postseason hockey. But after ending Wednesday night on the wrong side of a 2-0 shutout against the Lightning, they better feel like they have something worth playing for, if only for pride. Oh yeah, and that whole home ice thing. Otherwise the game thread may likely steer in the direction of food, alcohol and various distractions once again.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Puck and thread at 1:00.
Again, early start. 1:00.