Tonight’s game: Bruins at Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.

The Boston Bruins have been playing with the perfect formula for running away with the regular-season division and conference titles — don’t lose consecutively in regulation.

Tonight at Philips Arena they’ll try to continue their trend of never losing two in a row within the 60 minutes of regulation when they visit the Thrashers, who are just 1-4-2 in their last seven.

The Thrashers’ poor results of late have brought up the inevitable rumors of a trade of Ilya Kovalchuk. The star winger is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in July 2010 (that’s right not this summer, but next). Of course, the Thrashers would be crazy to trade their only marketable player — and such a move would probably spell doom for the franchise. But there are obviously four teams in the Southeast Division that would love to see Atlanta make the move.

To his credit, Thrashers general manager Don Waddell has denied all rumors in recent media reports. But what is he going to say? All of this could be a distraction to Atlanta, and we’re still some 17 months away from Kovalchuk’s free agency. That could make the Thrashers easy pickings during their home-and-home with the Bruins this weekend and for the foreseeable future.

Thrashers Player to Watch: Your eyes will be glued to Kovalchuk tonight, and you’ll be smart to watch the speedster who has put up 4-6-10 totals in his last eight games. But also watch for winger Colin Stuart, who was recalled from Chicago (AHL) Thursday. Although he has yet to appear in an NHL game this season, Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart’s brother was solid for Atlanta last season and this season put up 6-5-11 totals in 25 games in the ‘A.’ Against the Bruins last season, Colin put up 1-1-2 totals in two games as part of his season-long total of five points in 18 games.

What they’re writing: Carroll Rogers writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Slava Kozlov’s line has been slumping.

Quotable: Judging by Bruins head coach Claude Julien’s comments after the loss in Washington Wednesday night (“The one negative thing that I pull out of tonight’s game is that we didn’t put a lot of traffic in front of that net. We’ve been pretty good so far, but tonight was one of the worst nights as far as shots in front of the net.), you can expect that Boston will try to get in Johan Hedberg’s grill throughout the 60 minutes. In fact, that’s how Boston beat Atlanta back in October, as Milan Lucic recorded his first NHL hat trick with three goals that totaled less than 15 feet in distance combined during a 5-4 triumph.

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