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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Thrashers, Thursday December 30th

The Bruins (20-11-4) will wrap up 2010 tonight with their third stop on their five-city road trip, going up against a familiar foe, the Atlanta Thrashers (19-14-6).

These two teams have headed in opposite directions since their meeting just one week ago. It was then when the B’s woke up from a 1-3-1 slump to pummel the Thrashers, winning the game 4-1 and winning several physical bouts throughout the contest. The loss began Atlanta’s current four-game losing streak, while it served as the catalyst for Boston’s current three-game win streak, a streak that has propelled the B’s past Montreal for the Northeast Division lead. Atlanta, meanwhile, has dropped to third place in the Southeast Division, five points behind Washington, and seventh overall in the Eastern Conference, just two points ahead of Montreal for the final playoff seed.

While these two teams did just meet up last week, there’s still plenty to talk about heading into what should be a hotly contested battle tonight in Hotlanta. Let’s roll out some pre-game notes…

- The B’s and Thrashers have split their two meetings so far this season, each winning a 4-1 game on their own home ice.

- Boston is coming off an exciting, back-and-forth, 4-3 win in Tampa on Tuesday night, in a game that saw the Bruins squander three separate one-goal advantages. It was the veteran Mark Recchi who bailed the team out though, scoring his 570th career goal with just 19.7 seconds left in regulation, to give the B’s a one-goal lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

- Meanwhile, as I mentioned earlier, Atlanta is looking to snap out of its current slump, a losing streak that was extended to four games Tuesday night when they dropped a 6-3 game to the Penguins. The Thrashers will now play two games in just about 24 hours, as after tonight’s game with Boston, they’ll fly north for a 5pm start tomorrow in New Jersey against the Devils.

- In Tuesday’s game with Pittsburgh, Atlanta winger Evander Kane sustained a right arm injury that knocked him out of action. He’ll be a game-time decision tonight. Also today, the Thrashers put forward Nik Antropov on injured reserve with a hip injury.

- For Boston, the team could be without center Gregory Campbell tonight, who missed the team’s morning skate with an illness. If he can’t go this evening, look for Daniel Paille to join the action tonight on the fourth line.

- Tuesday’s win over the Lightning had a few interesting nuggets come out of it, most notably the third period benching of slumping forwards Nathan Horton, Marc Savard, and Tyler Seguin. Savard and Horton were on the ice when Martin St. Louis tied the game at three early in the third. That’s when Claude Julien decided to run with three forward lines for an eight-minute stretch, leaving Savard, Seguin, and Horton as the odd men out. Horton, who has probably slumped the most lately, has just one assist and no goals in his last seven games.

- Marc Savard did reach a career milestone while he was on the ice Tuesday, assisting on Steve Kampfer’s first career NHL goal in the first period. For Savard, it was his 700th career NHL point, while for Kampfer, he became the fourth Bruin this season to notch his first career NHL goal, joining fellow rookies Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, and Jordan Caron.

- Judging by the team’s morning skate today, it looks as if Tim Thomas will get his seventh straight start tonight in goal. That’s the longest start streak Thomas has had so far this season.

- Goaltending for Atlanta is handled by Ondrej Pavelec (12-8-4, 2.13GAA) and backup Chris Mason (7-6-2, 3.69GAA).

- Leading the way on the stat sheet for the Thrashers is the NHL’s leading scoring defenseman, Dustin Byfuglien (12G, 24A). Winger Andrew Ladd, who came to Atlanta in the offseason with Byfuglien in a trade from Chicago, is right behind Byfuglien with 12 goals and 19 assists. Third is defenseman Tobias Enstrom (5G, 24A).

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