With playoff hopes dimming, Panthers visit Thrashers

By Anthony Giornalista
Stats Senior Writer

Florida (39-30-11) at Atlanta (34-40-6), 7:00 p.m. EDT

ATLANTA (AP) — Two poor games on offense have hurt the Florida
Panthers’ playoff chances. Their lack of success against the
Atlanta Thrashers last week was particularly perplexing.

In need of some help to make the postseason, the Panthers look
to make up for their effort against a defensively mediocre
Thrashers club as the Southeast Division rivals meet at Philips
Arena on Thursday night.

Florida (39-30-11) is two points behind the New York Rangers in
the race for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, with
two games remaining for both teams.

If New York loses both, that would open the door for the
Panthers to have a shot at their first postseason berth since
2000. But if the Rangers get one more win or Florida suffers one
more regulation loss, the Panthers would be eliminated.

New York currently owns the first tiebreaker with two more wins
than Florida, but if each team finishes with the same victory
total, the next tiebreaker would be the season series and the
Panthers won that 3-0-1.

Florida is also three points behind Montreal for seventh place.

“I don’t know, I’m not a statistician,” coach Peter DeBoer said
about the Panthers’ playoff chances. “We have to win our next
two games. I think we have a chance to get in.”

Florida concludes the season at home against Washington. New
York finishes with a home-and-home series with Philadelphia.

The Panthers won’t give themselves much of a chance to stay in
the hunt if they struggle again offensively. They’ve lost two of
their last three games, 2-1 to Philadelphia on Tuesday night and
3-1 to Atlanta (34-40-6) on Friday night.

READ ALSO:  Ottawa Senators need victories to ensure a post-season berth

Despite posting 36 shots against goalie Johan Hedberg, Florida’s
only goal against the Thrashers came from Gregory Campbell.
Atlanta is one of the league’s worst defensive teams, allowing
3.42 goals per game – 4.1 in its last 10 contests.

The Panthers scored 18 goals in their previous four games versus
the Thrashers this season, winning three. David Booth, who leads
Florida with 28 goals, had five in four games against Atlanta
before being held without a point in last week’s contest.

The winger has two goals in his last 11 games overall.

Atlanta couldn’t stop high-scoring Washington in a home-and-home
series, losing 6-4 on the road Sunday and 4-2 on Tuesday night.
The Thrashers won their previous four.

Atlanta has had its own problems offensively, going 0-for-12 on
the power play against the Capitals and 0-for-19 in their last
four games.

Thrashers star Ilya Kovalchuk has been held off the scoresheet
in two of his last three games after posting five goals and six
assists in his previous six games.

Rich Peverley, though, has four points (three goals, one assist)
in his last three games. The center has 13 goals and 20 assists
in 37 games since being claimed off waivers Jan. 10.

Peverley had two goals Friday against the Panthers after being
held without a point in his first four career games against

Florida finishes the season at home Saturday night against Tampa