for this game

Penguins visit Thrashers seeking sweep

Apr 10, 2011 - 2:41 PM (Sports Network) - The fact that the Penguins were in the race for the Atlantic Division title despite playing half the season without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is something the club can carry with it into the postseason.

With chances at a division title disappearing on Saturday, Pittsburgh will have to settle for a season-series sweep of the Atlanta Thrashers this afternoon at Philips Arena.

The Penguins drew even with the Flyers in the division standings on Friday with a 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Islanders. However, Philadelphia held the tiebreaker with more non-shootout wins and officially clinched the division with a win of its own over the Islanders on Saturday.

With 104 points, Pittsburgh did clinch home-ice advantage in the first round thanks to Friday's win and it will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning when the postseason begins.

Many are wondering how the Penguins will do without their top two scorers. Crosby has been out since suffering a concussion in early January, and though he has been skating with the club his return date is unknown. Malkin, meanwhile, was lost for the season in early February due to a right knee injury.

Despite having played in just 41 games, Crosby leads the Penguins with 32 goals and 66 points, while Malkin had 15 goals and 22 assists in 43 games.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury helped keep Pittsburgh afloat, going 36-20-5 with a 2.32 goals-against average in 65 games. He made 35 saves through overtime in Friday's win and stopped all three skaters faced in the shootout. Chris Kunitz then won it with his third-round tally.

Mark Letestu, Zbynek Michalek and Michael Rupp all scored in regulation for the Penguins, who have won three straight and seven of their last nine games.

"There are things about the game that I didn't like, but our team found a way to win," said Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma.

Forward James Neal, who the Penguins acquired from the Stars on Feb. 21 to help compensate for the loss of Malkin and Crosby, left Friday's game with an unspecified injury and he did not practice on Saturday.

That could leave Pittsburgh shorthanded again today as it tries to sweep its four-game set with Atlanta for the second time in three seasons. The Penguins have won 11 of the last 12 in this series overall and four of the past five at Philips Arena.

Atlanta wraps up its season knowing it will miss the postseason for the 10th time in 11 seasons as a NHL franchise. The club also faces an uncertain future with ownership looking for potential buyers or investors.

The Thrashers played the spoiler role to perfection versus the Rangers on Thursday, but couldn't duplicate the feat the following night versus the Hurricanes, dropping a 6-1 decision.

Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec yielded all six goals on 32 shots and had some harsh words for himself afterwards.

"I feel like a loser. We didn't make it," said Pavelec. "That's what happens when you try to score too much."

Bryan Little scored with 39 seconds left to avoid the shutout, though the Thrashers lost for the third time in four games and fell to 17-16-7 at home this season.