Update (3:49 PM): Correction: Lilja isn’t with the team in Atlanta, but may still join them tomorrow for the trip to Calgary. Early-morning, bleary-eyed mistake on my part. Sorry about that. – Matt
Update (2:46 PM): The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the lines the Thrashers used in practice yesterday. – Matt
Update (1:37 PM): Ansar Khan reports that Filppula is in tonight and confirms that the lines will be the same as in practice yesterday (as listed below). Johan Franzen was sick this morning, but will play.
Khan also confirms that Kovalchuk, Bogosian, and Hainsey are in for Atlanta. – Matt
… This is the second meeting with Atlanta this season. The Wings won the first, 5-3 on Oct. 24.
… The Thrashers have won six of eight so far this month, but are coming off a 6-2 loss to Pittsburgh Tuesday. They knocked off the Capitals the night before, 5-1.
… Their recent success doesn’t wipe out Â pretty mediocre season that has them 17 points out of Â playoff spot in 13th place and with a 29-36-6 record overall.
… Captain Ilya Kovalchuk went down with a bad back on the 13th, but it sounds like he’s ready to return to the lineup.
… Jim Slater (shoulder) is out and Boris Valabik (shoulder) is questionable.
… Kari Lehtonen will get the start for the Thrashers.
… The Wings kicked off a three-game winning streak Saturday with a 5-2 decision over St. Louis. They followed that up with a win against Columbus Sunday and a comeback win over Philadelphia on Tuesday. They are playing some of their best hockey of the year.
… The win in Columbus clinched a playoff spot, but it’ll still be a while before they clinch the division thanks to Chicago’s strong season.
They do have sole possession of first place overall with 103 points, though a San Jose win last night cut their lead to just one. The Sharks now have only one game in hand, but will be back to two after tonight. The two schedules finally sync on April 2nd with both teams’ 77th game.
… The Wings will be without Andreas Lilja (concussion) for the 8th straight game tonight, but took him on the trip in hopes that he might be able to return to practice while the team is in Alberta for a two-game stint against Calgary and Edmonton early next week.
… Valtteri Filppula (back) is questionable for tonight after leaving practice early yesterday.
… Tomas Holmstrom (knee) is definitely out.
… Projected lines and pairings, based on yesterday’s practice:
Obviously, those are dependent on Filppula’s status. Should he be unable to go, expect something similar to Tuesday’s units.
… Chris Osgood will start his fourth straight. It looks like Ty Conklin will only get in for back-to-backs or if Osgood stumbles.
… This is a big game for the Wings’ focus. The Thrashers aren’t fighting for a playoff spot, so the tendency may be to not take them as seriously. That’d be a definite mistake if Ilya Kovalchuk really is returning to the lineup tonight. Even if he doesn’t, however, the Thrashers have the ability to surprise a complacent Red Wing team. Detroit needs to take this one seriously, and play like they have in the last three.