With the Thrashers sitting in 8th place in the Eastern Conference, just three points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes who have three games in hand, every point from here on out is crucial. However, some games are more important than others. Most pivotal are the so called "four-point swing games."
Four point games are those played against teams with whom the Thrashers (51 pts) are in direct competition for playoff positioning. At this point, just over halfway through the season, those teams are the Canadiens (51 pts), the Rangers (53 pts), the Hurricanes (48 pts), the Lightning (57 pts), and the Capitals (55 pts).
The Bolts and Caps sit at #1 and #2 respectively in the Southeast, just ahead of Atlanta. Each have just one game in hand on Atlanta which has still played more games than anyone in the East except for Pittsburgh. Atlanta will complete the season series with Tampa and Washington by the end of January, playing the Bolts on January 20 and 23, and the Caps on January 26.
The Thrashers have 9 games against the rest of the teams in direct competition for the last three playoff spots. Those dates are as follows:
Canadiens- 3/1 and 3/29
Rangers- 1/22, 2/11, and 4/7
Hurricanes- 2/5, 2/13, 3/9, and 4/8
Atlanta also has five games scheduled with the next two teams in the pecking order, Florida (40 pts) and Buffalo (41 pts), but at 11 and 10 points out of a playoff spot at this point of the season, it would take a monumental run for those teams to be a factor.
The Thrashers have to maintain pace ahead of two out of three of the group of Habs, Rags, and Canes in order to make the playoffs. If they can also catch the Bolts and/or Caps, that's icing on the cake.