Bruins-Coyotes Preview

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.