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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

10.

"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

again."

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

night.

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.

"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.

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