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It's been more than 14 months since the Phoenix Coyotes last had to face the Boston Bruins.

Based on Boston's results since then, the Coyotes may wish they could wait even longer.

The Bruins try to extend their latest lengthy winning streak to seven as they emerge from their Christmas break to begin a brief southwestern swing Wednesday night against Phoenix.

This will be the first meeting between these teams since they split two games in Prague to open last season. Tim Thomas made 29 saves in the second matchup to backbone a 3-0 Bruins win Oct. 10, 2010.

Boston (23-9-1) has since blossomed from Eastern Conference contender to Stanley Cup champion - and recently, to an all but unstoppable force.

Since a rocky October, the Bruins have outscored opponents by a staggering 97-36 margin during a 20-2-1 stretch, culminating in Friday's 8-0 whitewashing of Florida before the holiday.

"We're feeling good about ourselves. We're confident, but we can't, we always said it before, we can't be satisfied," center Patrice Bergeron said. "Now we have a couple days to rest and make sure we get ready for the second half of the season because it's going to get tougher."

Bergeron has nine points during his team's current six-game winning streak, second on the team to Brad Marchand's 10. Marchand had a career night the last time he took the ice, posting his first NHL hat trick along with two assists against the Panthers.

While Boston leads the league with 3.52 goals per game and already has nine players with at least 20 points, its real strength may still lie in back. Its team goals-against average is 1.88, easily the league's best.

The Bruins have blanked three of their last five opponents, with Tuukka Rask getting a pair of shutouts and Thomas the other. Both goalies are among the NHL's top five in GAA and save percentage.

"It's a big-time luxury," coach Claude Julien said. "I'm not going to hide that fact.

"Both guys have been at the top of their game, which allows you to put in one or the other. The other guy gets a rest and the other guy stays sharp. They're both very supportive of that approach and they're OK with it. That just makes us such a better team by having that situation right now."

After losing Ilya Bryzgalov in the offseason, Phoenix (18-15-3) has a far less enviable situation in net, especially with Mike Smith on injured reserve due to a groin problem.

Jason LaBarbera started Monday at Los Angeles, but he allowed four goals on 29 shots and was replaced by Curtis McElhinney midway through the third period of a 4-3 loss.

"With the injuries we have in our lineup, we wanted to make sure we competed hard and give ourselves the best chance of winning," coach Dave Tippett said. "We were hanging around the whole game, right until the end. I think there were a couple of goals in the third that Barb would like to have back."

The defeat dropped Phoenix to 5-8-0 this month. The Coyotes have won just one of five December home games.

The Bruins, who visit Dallas on New Year's Eve before a three-day break, are playing in Arizona for the first time since a 4-1 loss Oct. 17, 2009.

Tagged: Bruins, Coyotes, Tim Thomas

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