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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.

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




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