Five steps forward, then two back. That has been the last seven games for the Canes, who had earned points in five straight games before the road losses to Dallas and Anaheim.
How big were the steps back?
"In terms of quality and style of play, our last seven games have been pretty even," Canes coach Paul Maurice said today after the morning skate for the Thrashers game. "They've all been tight games, one-goal games. We either found a way to win it or found a way to lose it, but there wasn't a major chasm in terms of difference in style of play.
"Both the games on the road were more physical, kind of more grinding games. More whistles. They were slower games than we had coming in, and I think that will change here tonight."
The Thrashers (11-7-3) are 5-1-2 in their last eight, winning 2-0 at Detroit on Wednesday. Included in those eight games is a 7-0 waxing of the LA Kings in Atlanta.
"There will be a lot more speed and pace in this game than the two on the road, but that will be more of a mental adjustment," Maurice said. "So we're going to watch coming out of the gate here and factoring in that we did come from across the country, and your day off, and Thanksgiving.
"Those are the things you worry about because it is going to be a faster game. We're going to have to be at pace right away."
After losing to the Ducks 3-2 Wednesday night, the Canes flew home, arriving after 6 a.m. Thursday morning. Then it was Thanksgiving with their families, with Rod Brind'Amour having Brandon Sutter, Justin Peters and Pat Dwyer over to his house for some food and festivities.
Tuomo Ruutu, who missed the Ducks game, will be back in the lineup tonight and on Matt Cullen's line with Jussi Jokinen. The other lines at the skate had Eric Staal centering Sergei Samsonov and Erik Cole, Brandon Sutter at center with Ray Whitney and Chad LaRose, and Stephane Yelle at center with Rod Brind'Amour and Tom Kostopoulos on the wings.
Scott Walker, who has missed the last five games with an upper-body injury, skated today but will sit tonight along with Dwyer, Maurice said. The Canes have 14 healthy forwards.
Manny Legace will start in net again tonight but Maurice said he was not sure about Saturday's game in Buffalo. Michael Leighton, who has been recovering from a groin pull, may go in against the Sabres.
"We're just going to wait to see who's healthy," Maurice said. "We'll see how Mike feels. ... Depending on how he feels tomorrow and the results of the game tonight -- I really don't know Manny in back-to-backs yet. ...
"We'll see where his confidence is after the game. If he feels good and confident and we're not 100 percent sure on Mike, then Manny's going. And if Mike feels 100 percent and he really thinks he can go, and Manny see a whole lot of work tonight, which is possible with their talent level, then we'll make a different decision."