When the Atlanta Thrashers take on the Devils up in New Jersey tonight, both teams will be looking to keep themselves within mentioning distance of the eighth and final playoff spot. Currently the Thrashers are tied with the Toronto Maple Leaves at 70 points…thanks to the Lightning’s 6-2 win in Toronto last night. Both trail the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes by two points and the Rangers and Sabres, who occupy the last two postseason slots, by six.
Atlanta does have one more game remaining than do the Leafs and the Devils will be looking to move into a three-way tie.
Even with their current winning ways, New Jersey has had a tough time making up ground in the race recently. Even though they’ve gone 7-2 in their past nine games, they have only been able to go from 10 points out of a playoff spot to 8 in that time.
For their part, the Thrashers have netted 7 of a possible 8 points during their last four games…all of which have required overtime to settle. The lone loss during that time came last Friday when Travis Zajac’s OT tally allowed the Devils to escape Atlanta with two points.
But both they and the Thrashers know that procuring these important 2 points is vital.
Consider that on top of all the other games involving teams close to these two teams in the standings, the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes are paired up with each other tonight while the Canes will host the Maple Leafs tomorrow evening. So there are going to be points doled to those we are competing with to remain viable playoff contenders.
We can only hope that those games don’t require overtime.
Because of that, winning tonight doesn’t guarantee climbing a notch on the playoff ladder…it’ll simply keep them in the discussion. But losing, especially in regulation, will deal one of these two teams a serious blow to their chances.
“We have to win”, defenseman Ron Hainsey stated regarding the Thrashers situation. “The position we’re in, we have to win a large majority, probably .800. If we get a stretch where we don’t get wins in two or three in a row, that’ll probably be the end of us.”
“As long as we keep winning, we’ll be in the conversation.”
Following tonight’s battle with the Devils, the Thrashers will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the Flyers in town. One can expect they’ll have the events of last Saturday night still in mind as they pay Thrasherville a call and will look to exact a certain measure of revenge.
Then it’ll be off to Buffalo for a tilt with the Sabres before a four day break between games.
Whether or not the Thrashers will still be mentioned then on the NHL talking heads shows when they break down the playoff picture will depend a lot on how they do this week.