The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Atlanta Thrashers are both on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Only one of them, however, is playing like it's capable of reaching the postseason.
The Maple Leafs have four wins and 10 points in their last six games, a hot streak they'll hope to continue Sunday at Philips Arena against a Thrashers team looking to avoid a sixth consecutive loss.
Atlanta (25-26-11) was in eighth place in the East at the end of January with 57 points, 14 more than Toronto (27-27-8) had while toiling in 12th.
But the Maple Leafs have turned it on in February, going 8-2-3, while the Thrashers have fallen apart. Atlanta is 1-7-2 this month, and has reached a stage where anything besides a regulation loss is a positive. The Thrashers fell 2-1 in a shootout to Florida on Friday, but that represented the first point they'd picked up in five games.
"They did everything they could," coach Craig Ramsay told the NHL's official website. "They put their hearts into it. I truly believe that if you play like that, you will win."
That point pulled Atlanta back into a tie with Toronto at 61 points in 10th place, yet the Leafs pulled ahead Saturday. Toronto improved to 4-0-2 in its last six games, but blew four leads and left a potentially valuable point on the table in a 6-5 shootout loss to Pittsburgh.
"We knew we weren't going to win the last 20," said forward Joffrey Lupul, who scored twice. "There's going to be nights when we don't execute as well as we want, but we got out of here with one point. It's not the end of the world, that's for sure."
The Maple Leafs are five points behind eighth-place Carolina and three back of No. 9 Buffalo.
Toronto has scored five goals in consecutive games after totaling just nine over its previous six contests, and it has every reason to believe it can stay hot offensively in Atlanta. The Leafs scored five times on the power play during their Jan. 7 visit to Philips Arena in a 9-3 victory that represented their highest-scoring game in more than four years.
Lupul should have a good chance to build off Saturday's two-goal effort. He has eight goals and six assists in nine career games versus Atlanta, with at least a point in each contest.
Perhaps more importantly for the Leafs' hopes in this game, his teams have won eight straight against the Thrashers.
Grabovski, meanwhile, has six goals and three assists in his past six games in the series.
Atlanta has averaged just 2.08 goals over its last 12 games, bad news for a team that surrendered more (3.16 per game) offense than all but four teams.
Andrew Ladd has certainly been doing his part, however. The Thrashers captain has six of his team-high 22 goals in his past seven games.
Ladd has a goal in all three games against Toronto this season.
AccuScore has powered more than 10,000 simulations for every NHL game on ESPN.com, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions and opponent's abilities. Each game is simulated and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages.