If the Atlanta Thrashers hope to remaining in second place in the Southeast Division, then they’ll have to break a long losing streak against the team immediately below them in the standings.
Atlanta sits one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who look to extend a seven-game winning streak against the Thrashers on Wednesday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.
While Tampa Bay has gone through a 3-3-2 stretch, Atlanta (17-11-3) has won 10 of 12 to draw within two points of first-place Washington in the division. Bryan Little’s(notes) overtime goal Monday gave the Thrashers a 4-3 win against Ottawa after Atlanta blew a 3-0 second-period lead.
Despite having an identical record through 31 games in 2009-10, Little said this season’s Atlanta team is much different.
“Everything’s positive,” he said. “We hold each other accountable every night. I think that’s the main thing that’s different from last year. It’s fun coming to the rink every day.”
Ondrej Pavelec(notes) made 27 saves for his third win in four starts, but he’s lost his lost three against the Lightning. Backup Chris Mason(notes) hasn’t fared much better, losing both starts against Tampa Bay while filling in for the injured Pavelec, who was out with a concussion. Mason is 0-2-0 with a 6.12 goals-against average against Tampa Bay this season, and 1-4-0 with a 4.68 GAA in his career.
Steven Stamkos(notes) has five goals and two assists in the two wins over Atlanta this season, including a hat trick with an assist in a 5-2 road victory Oct. 22. Stamkos has 12 with nine assists in 14 career games against Atlanta.
However, the Lightning haven’t won consecutive games since winning five straight from Nov. 17-24. They squandered a two-goal lead to the Canucks after attempting only one shot in the third period before Stamkos bailed them out.
“That’s kind of been the story of our season, letting teams back in,” Stamkos said. “When we have that lead, the whole year we’ve sat back. We’ve got to stay aggressive. It’s something we have to adjust to and figure out.”