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GAME: Atlanta Thrashers (38-32-7) at Tampa Bay Lightning (42-31-5).
TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EDT.
Trying to secure the first playoff berth in team history, the Atlanta Thrashers can inflict some damage on the team they are trying to catch when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning have 89 points - six more than the Thrashers - and are in sole possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after Montreal defeated conference co-leader Ottawa on Monday.
Atlanta has a game in hand on Tampa Bay, but a loss to the Lightning would severely impact their chances of claiming one of the final playoff spots.
"We have to give credit to Tampa Bay, New Jersey and Montreal," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said of the three teams leading Atlanta. "They have put on some great streaks, but by winning our games, we stay in the race and stand a chance to win."
The Thrashers have won two of their past three, but the lone loss came to Tampa Bay in a shootout. Atlanta has lost five of the seven meetings between the teams and likely will be without rookie goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who sprained an ankle in Thursday's loss.
Backup goalie Mike Dunham made 29 saves in a 5-2 win over Carolina on Saturday.
"Obviously, losing Kari is a tough situation for us, but Dunham stepped into a tough situation the other night, and he has played great," said Scott Mellanby, Atlanta's captain. "He is a very capable goalie."
Atlanta on Monday recalled Michael Garnett from Chicago of the AHL. He allowed three goals on seven shots in the first 11:34 of the Thrashers' 6-0 loss to the Lightning on Oct. 20.
Tampa Bay allowed the Thrashers to close the gap with an uninspired 6-3 loss to Florida on Sunday, snapping a three-game winning streak.
"We're just not doing enough right now," Tampa Bay's Brad Richards said. "We're not trying to win games, we're just hoping. You can use a lot of fancy words but there's no other way to put it."
John Grahame made 41 saves, but the Lightning lost to the Panthers - already eliminated from playoff contention - for the sixth time this season.
"Right now, I root for any team that plays against Tampa Bay," Hartley said. "I think it is only normal at this point. We need help, and any teams that want to chip in, we really appreciate their help."
This is the final game of the season for Atlanta against a team with a winning record. Tampa Bay, however, still has two games remaining against Carolina, which has clinched the Southeast Division title and is tied with Ottawa for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
STANDINGS: Thrashers - 83 points, 3rd place, 25 PB, Southeast Division. Lightning - 89 points, 2nd place, 19 PB, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Thrashers - Ilya Kovalchuk, 51 goals and 95 points; Marc Savard, 66 assists; Andy Sutton, 138 PIM. Lightning - Vincent Lecavalier, 35 goals; Richards, 65 assists and 86 points; Pavel Kubina, 92 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Thrashers - Power play: 19.5 percent (98 for 503), 6th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.0 percent (368 for 466), 26th. Lightning - Power play: 16.7 percent (77 for 461), 23rd. Penalty killing: 81.8 percent (301 for 368), 17th.
GOALTENDERS: Thrashers - Dunham (5-4-2, 1 SO, 2.47 GAA); Garnett (10-7-0, 2, 3.44). Lightning - Grahame (28-21-1, 5, 3.07); Sean Burke (14-9-3, 2, 2.65).
SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 5-2.
LAST MEETING: Thursday; Lightning, 3-2 (SO). At Tampa, Fla., Lecavalier and Richards scored in the shootout and Burke improved to 8-0 lifetime against Atlanta.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Thrashers - 16-19-3 on the road; Lightning - 24-12-2 at home.
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