for this game

Preds host Atlanta with postseason on the mind

Apr 5, 2011 - 3:16 PM
(Sports Network) - Though the Central Division title is no longer in play, ending a two-year playoff drought is certainly within the Predators' reach. Nashville will look to do its part tonight to make that a reality as they host the Atlanta Thrashers at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Red Wings on Saturday, their lone regulation defeat in their last nine games (7-1-1). However, Nashville fell five points behind Detroit for first place in the division and the Red Wings wrapped up the crown with a win on Sunday.

Nashville, though, still sits sixth overall in the Western Conference with three games to play. It is two points up on seventh-place Anaheim and trails both Phoenix and Los Angeles by a single point. Still, the Predators can claim a postseason berth tonight with a victory and a loss by Dallas to Columbus, or if they get a point in this game and the Stars lose in regulation.

Forward Sergei Kostitsyn has paced the Predators as of late as he netted his team-leading 20th goal of the season in Saturday's loss. He has four goals and seven assists over a personal-best nine-game point streak.

Ryan Suter and Martin Erat also scored as the Preds raced out to a 3-0 lead before the Red Wings rallied to win. Pekka Rinne made 37 saves but was bested on a deflection with 2:02 left in overtime.

"We had a three-goal lead for what, two minutes? Three minutes?" Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "It didn't feel like we had a three-goal lead and we just gave it up right away. They were right back in the game."

Nashville lost the opener of a three-game homestand, but is still a solid 22-9-8 as the host this season. The club will also host the Blues Jackets on Friday before ending its season on Saturday at St. Louis.

While the Predators close in on a playoff spot, the Thrashers were officially eliminated from postseason contention for the 10th time in 11 seasons as a NHL franchise with Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Bruins. Atlanta's lone trip to the playoffs came in 2006-07.

The Thrashers have alternated wins and losses over their last 12 games and gave up the game-winner on a penalty shot in the third period at Boston. Dustin Byfuglien netted his 20th goal of the season -- most among NHL defenseman -- and Evander Kane also scored. Ondrej Pavelec made 20 saves, but couldn't come up with one on Michael Ryder's penalty shot with 7:29 to play.

"It's very devastating, especially to lose a game that we played a pretty good game," Thrashers coach Craig Ramsey said. "We had a great third period, a great solid effort."

In addition to losing the game, defenseman Tobias Enstrom left with an upper-body injury and did not return. He did not travel with the team to Nashville and Atlanta recalled blueliner Andrey Zubarev from the minor leagues on Monday, with the 24-year-old set to make his NHL debut tonight.

Atlanta, which hasn't lost consecutive games since March 1 and 3, is 1-2 on a five-game road trip that ends at the Rangers on Thursday. The Thrashers then wrap their season with two at home.

Atlanta had lost two straight to Nashville before picking up a 3-2 overtime win at home back on Dec. 6, with Zach Bogosian netting the winner at 2:11 of the extra frame. Pavelec made 27 saves in his first ever appearance against Nashville.

Rinne did not start that game due to injury -- backup Anders Lindback made 34 saves to take the loss -- and is 2-0 with a 3.51 goals-against average in his career versus the Thrashers.

Atlanta has lost four of its six trips to Nashville.