The Pittsburgh Penguins were hoping to have something on the line in their regular-season finale. Instead, it will merely be a chance for them to sustain their momentum before heading into the playoffs.
That may not be a problem against the Atlanta Thrashers.
The Penguins look to continue their dominance of the Thrashers as the teams conclude the regular season at Philips Arena on Sunday.
Pittsburgh (48-25-8) began the weekend harboring hopes of an Atlantic Division title and the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. However, Philadelphia clinched the division crown Saturday by beating the New York Islanders 7-4 on Saturday.
The Penguins could finish with the same amount of points as the Flyers, but would lose out on tiebreakers.
That leaves Pittsburgh locked into the fourth seed and a first-round playoff series against Tampa Bay.
The Penguins would like to begin that series with positive momentum. They’re 7-2-0 in their last nine games, including a 4-3 shootout win over the New York Islanders on Friday.
“I think we want to make sure we manage the puck well,” defenseman Paul Martin(notes) told the Penguins’ official website. “We’re just kind of clicking on all cylinders and getting pucks to the net, getting the puck in deep, and not trying to turn over too much. So hopefully we do that for the last game and be ready to open the playoffs.”
A win in the regular-season finale would also give Pittsburgh its 24th on the road, tying a franchise record set during 1992-93. The Pens appear to be in good position to get it, They’ve won 11 of their last 12 meetings with the Thrashers, including four of five at Philips Arena.
They won the most recent matchup there, 4-2 on Nov. 13.
Pittsburgh’s power play is showing improvement, scoring a goal in each of the last two games after converting just 3 of 65 chances over the previous 20.
“Our PK has been good all year for us, and our PP hasn’t been that great for bits and pieces and now we’re starting to figure out, I think, how to get it going,” Martin said.
The Thrashers, completing a fourth consecutive season without a playoff berth, lost 6-1 to Carolina on Friday. Rebounding with a victory would give Atlanta 35 for a third consecutive season,
Bryan Little(notes) scored the consolation goal Friday with 39 seconds left, extending his goal streak at home to four games. The right wing also has a six-game point streak, during which he’s netted four goals and three assists.
Little has four goals and two assists in his last nine meetings versus the Penguins, with the Thrashers losing eight of them. He set up goals by Evander Kane(notes) and Dustin Byfuglien(notes) in a 6-3 loss at Pittsburgh on Dec. 28.