Of course we have Tampa to deal with for the SE title race, but right now the Thrashers are a point out from the #8 spot.
At this point the only two teams I would say are out of it are Pittsburgh and Washington. Buffalo and Carolina have plenty of room to make up, and with the relative strength of the NE division I would count out Buffalo as well. Florida is very close to us right now, but I just cannot see them making any ground on us. They are too young.
The next month is going to be the real test for the Thrashers, a very tough road trip in the middle of Feb could be the difference. However the Thrashers schedule is pretty easy from the end of Feb through the rest of the season.
If the Thrashers can do well on their road trip, I can see Heatley coming back and getting the team to the #8 spot at the very least. With 3 games left against Tampa, they could still make a run at the SE title.
You are absolutely correct, btn, that the next month is crucial to Thrasher playoff hopes. If we can build up some momentum going into the long road trip in February, we could be alright down the stretch. Injuries are another factor: if we can get some of our guys back, including Heatley, that would go a long way to making those playoff hopes into realities.