The Atlanta Thrashers and Nashville Predators are in second place in their respective divisions, but they can pretty much concede any chance of finishing first. That doesn't mean postseason play is completely out of the question, though.
The Thrashers look to build on an impressive victory and win their third in a row Saturday night when they visit a Predators team trying to avoid a season high-tying six consecutive losses.
Atlanta (24-21-8) and Nashville (29-21-3) face the largest division deficits of any second-place team in the NHL.
The Thrashers' chances of winning a second Southeast title in franchise history is pretty slim, as they sit 22 points behind first-place Washington, which is also the top team in the Eastern Conference.
The Predators' situation isn't as bad, but it's highly unlikely they'll overcome Chicago's 17-point advantage atop the Central Division.
Things aren't quite as bleak for either team in the conference standings, though.
Nashville is tied with Detroit for seventh in the West with 61 points, but holds the advantage over the Red Wings because it's played one fewer game. Atlanta has 56 points, good for sixth in the East with five teams one point back and two more clubs trailing by two points.
The Thrashers are hoping to carry some momentum from Thursday, when they scored three third-period goals to rally for a 4-3 win over the Flyers.
Ilya Kovalchuk tallied his 31st goal just 29 seconds into the final period, and Rich Peverley tied the score less than four minutes later. With 6:32 remaining in regulation, Jim Slater's second goal of the game helped lift Atlanta to just its third victory in 19 games at Philadelphia.
"This was a big win against a good team in an arena we haven't been successful in the past," Slater said.
The Thrashers are now seeking their first three-game winning streak since reeling off four in a row from Nov. 25-30.
The Predators haven't been enjoying the same success lately.
Nashville wrapped up a four-game road trip Friday with a 4-2 loss to Detroit, its fifth straight defeat following a three-game winning streak. This is the Predators longest skid since dropping six straight from Oct. 10-21.
Nashville fired 48 shots on goal against the Red Wings, but scored two or less for the fifth time in six games. The Predators failed to convert on all four power-play opportunities, and are just 1 for 21 with the man advantage in the last seven games.
"It really came down to special teams," said Dan Ellis, who is 0-3-0 with a 3.23 goals-against average in his last three games. "We were brutal again. We've had some meetings about our power play and our penalty kill. Maybe it's time to change things."
Ellis started in goal in the last meeting with Atlanta, a 7-2 home loss on Jan. 17, 2009. He was replaced by Pekka Rinne less than 11 minutes into the game after allowing three goals on four shots.
Rinne, 0-2-0 with a 3.78 GAA in his last three games, stopped 24 of the 28 shots he faced as seven different players scored for the Thrashers.
Johan Hedberg has stopped 34 shots in winning each of the last two games for Atlanta after going 1-5-4 with a 2.94 GAA in his previous 11 contests. He is 1-1-1 with one tie and a 2.68 GAA in four career starts against the Predators.