The Thrashers seek to end a three-game slide Thursday night when they visit the Blue Jackets, who hope to have superstar Rick Nash back in the lineup.
Columbus (26-30-11) won't be returning to the playoffs thanks to a dismal season in which coach Ken Hitchcock was fired Feb. 3 and reigning Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason has struggled to post a 3.15 goals-against average after finishing 2008-09 at 2.29.
Atlanta (28-27-10), which has also made the playoffs only once in 2007, seemed to be building for the future when it traded Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey on Feb. 4. The Thrashers, though, got back into contention with a 4-0-2 stretch from Feb. 6-March 4.
That was right before this current slide in which Atlanta has scored three goals and fallen four points behind Boston, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Thrashers fell 2-1 at home to Nashville on Tuesday.
"We're not out of it," winger Chris Thorburn said. "We've still got some games left, but we've got to start putting some wins together instead of losses."
The Thrashers fell behind 2-0 after one period and finished 0 for 2 on the power play, extending their drought to 10 chances with the man advantage during this skid.
"They had two power plays, they had one shot -- it went in the net," coach John Anderson said. "You look at the shots we had on our power play, and it doesn't go in. It's just a bounce here and a bounce there and it went against us tonight."
Atlanta will have a new but very familiar face in the lineup Thursday when 48-year-old defenseman Chris Chelios makes his Thrashers debut. Chelios, entering his 26th NHL season, has appeared in 46 games for Chicago of the AHL this season, recording five goals and 17 assists.
Chelios has won the Norris Trophy three times and is an 11-time All-Star.
"Chris has been an outstanding leader and mentor for our young players in Chicago and his level of play has made him deserving of this opportunity," Atlanta General Manager Don Waddell said. "He's a tremendous competitor who strengthens our group of defensemen and instantly adds a veteran presence to our locker room."
Scoring has also become a problem for Atlanta against the Blue Jackets, who have won three straight over the Thrashers. Columbus posted two shutouts in a row before winning 4-3 on Nov. 5 as Jakub Voracek and Derick Brassard each had a goal and an assist and Mathieu Garon made 32 saves.
Nash has 28 goals to lead the Blue Jackets to go with 29 assists, but was scratched for the first time in Monday's 5-2 win at Anaheim with a lower-body injury. His status is day-to-day.
Kristian Huselius, second on the team with 30 assists, sat out his second straight game with a hand injury.
The short-handed Blue Jackets, though, got 36 saves from Garon to bounce back one night after an embarrassing 6-0 loss at Los Angeles. Mason was pulled in the first period of that contest after allowing four goals on 13 shots.
"We wanted to bounce back," Garon said. "We were not satisfied at all, and sometimes it's a good thing to get right back at it the next day. I think we responded really well."
Columbus emphatically ended a 0-for-14 skid on the power play with three goals Monday by Voracek, Brassard and Antoine Vermette. Voracek, Vermette and Fedor Tyutin all finished with a goal and two assists.
The Blue Jackets are 0-1-2 in their last three home games.