After earning their first regulation victory in nearly two months, the Atlanta Thrashers are looking to end their four-game homestand with a winning record.
Facing a Buffalo Sabres team that hasn't had much success at Philips Arena could help Atlanta accomplish that goal.
The Thrashers try to win their sixth straight at home over first-place Buffalo when the teams meet for the third time this season Thursday night.
Atlanta (20-19-6) dropped nine in a row before defeating the New York Rangers 2-1 in a shootout in the opener of this homestand last Thursday. The Thrashers were then blown out 8-1 by Washington on Saturday but rebounded to beat Ottawa 6-1 on Tuesday night.
They scored three times in the first period and got a goal and two assists from Ilya Kovalchuk in their first regulation win since defeating Florida 4-3 on Nov. 30, a span of 21 games.
"We worked hard in practice on battling hard and trying to get some crease goals," right wing Chris Thorburn said. "It paid off for us tonight."
That practice session was unannounced, and it was called by coach John Anderson the day after the loss to the Capitals.
"As a coaching staff, it helps us teach because they were doing the things that we were asking," Anderson said. "When you get a few bounces here and there, that's what creates confidence."
Atlanta has played with confidence at home against Northeast Division-leading Buffalo (28-11-5) in recent years, winning five straight and going 6-0-1 in the last seven meetings. The Sabres are 3-12-2 with a tie all-time at Atlanta.
The Thrashers are also 6-0-1 in the last seven overall matchups, going 1-0-1 in Buffalo this season, but Anderson tried to guard against overconfidence after Tuesday's win.
"We're still not exactly where we want to be," he said. "Baby steps."
While the Thrashers had not won in regulation for quite some time, Buffalo has lost twice in regulation since early December. The Sabres went 12-2-3 in their last 17 games and 6-0-2 in their past eight.
Buffalo had its six-game win streak snapped with a 4-3 shootout loss to Colorado on Saturday. The Sabres erased a two-goal deficit in the third period but scored three times on 11 shootout attempts.
"We battled hard, and came out flying in the third," said backup goalie Patrick Lalime, who was in search of his 200th win. "That's the way we should play all the time. We had a lot of great chances, but we just didn't close the deal."
Ryan Miller will likely be back in net Thursday for Buffalo, which opens a season-high seven-game road trip. The Sabres have won seven of their last nine away from home.
"(It gives you) an opportunity," coach Lindy Ruff told the Sabres' official Web site. "Other teams look at you and say, boy, this team's going on the road for an extended period of time and we should be able to pick up some ground. We'd like to send the message that we don't want anyone to pick up any ground on us. We want to play above .500 on the road."