Thrashers, Lightning square off in finale of disappointing seasons

By Anthony Giornalista
Stats Senior Writer

Tampa Bay (24-39-18) at Atlanta (34-41-6), 7:00 p.m. EDT

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Thrashers and Tampa Bay Lightning
have been two of the league’s worst teams this season. They’re
certainly playing the part down the stretch.

Losers of three straight, the Thrashers look to deal the
Lightning their ninth consecutive defeat in the teams’ season
finale Saturday night.

Tampa Bay (24-39-18), the only club that will finish below
Atlanta (34-41-6) in the Southeast Division, has lost eight
straight and 11 of 12. The Lightning are in danger of matching
their longest skid of the season, set from November 23-December

“It’s been a long season,” promising Tampa Bay rookie Steven
Stamkos said. “Hopefully, we can learn from this season. Learn
how it feels to lose and hopefully not have that feeling ever

Only the New York Islanders will end up with fewer points this
season than the Lightning, who will miss the playoffs for the
second straight season after a four-year postseason run that
included a Stanley Cup in 2004.

Atlanta, meanwhile, has been left out of the playoffs for the
eighth time in nine seasons since entering the league. The
Thrashers, who will finish 13th in the Eastern Conference, have
suffered three straight regulation losses.

Zach Bogosian has been one of Atlanta’s few bright spots. He
scored twice in the Thrashers’ 3-2 loss to Florida on Thursday

Atlanta failed to convert 21 straight power-play opportunities
before Bogosian scored his first goal.

Bogosian, 18, leads all rookie defensemen in goals (nine)
despite playing just 46 games. He also has nine assists since
being called up from Chicago of the American Hockey League on
January 13.

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“He’s playing real well,” Thrashers leading scorer and captain
Ilya Kovalchuk said. “He’s got some confidence. He’s skating
with the puck, and he knows how to skate, so he’ll be scary good
in a couple of years.”

Bogosian was the third overall pick in last year’s draft, when
Stamkos was selected No. 1 overall. Stamkos set a Tampa Bay
rookie record with his 22nd goal in a 4-2 loss to Washington on
Thursday night.

The 19-year-old center had shared the record with Brad Richards,
who had 21 goals in 2000-01. Stamkos has settled down after
struggling early in the season, posting 26 points (16 goals, 10
assists) in his last 29 games.

“He’s obviously a goal-scorer,” Lightning interim coach Rick
Tocchet told the team’s official web site. “He’s got a great
shot and great hands. Can you imagine if he continues playing
the way he’s played in the last two months?”

Stamkos had two goals in a 4-3 shootout loss to Atlanta on March
21 as the Thrashers took a 3-1-1 lead in the season series.

Tampa Bay will have another high draft pick, no lower than
third, after a terrible season due partly to injuries.

The Lightning recalled defenseman Kevin Quick from Norfolk of
the AHL prior to Thursday’s contest, and he became the 22nd
different defenseman used by the team this season. Tampa Bay
has used 50 players overall, five short of the NHL single-season
record set by Boston in 1991-92.