Several stretches of consistent play buoyed the Boston Bruins to the top of the Eastern Conference last season. The team is hoping a similar string of efforts has just begun.
The Bruins will try to notch back-to-back victories for the first time this season on Saturday night as they close a brief road trip against the Phoenix Coyotes, who've been surprisingly stingy throughout their strong start.
Boston's choppy play during its season-opening homestand was surprising after the team methodically surged to the No. 1 seed in the East last season, with coach Claude Julien earning the Jack Adams Award as the league's best coach.
The Bruins (3-3-0) looked much better in their road opener Friday, winning 3-0 at Dallas and shutting down the Stars after three of their first five opponents scored four or more goals.
"We were disappointed with our homestand," Julien said. "We knew we'd have to redeem ourself on the road. (Friday) looked more like where we want to be as a team."
Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas bounced back from some early problems with his first shutout of the season, but he acknowledged that his 27 saves didn't present many challenges as Boston's defense allowed few chances.
Marc Savard provided more than enough offense with two goals, giving him seven points in six games.
"We were pressuring them while still being under control," Thomas said. "We had 20 guys working together to accomplish the same goal. In the third period, instead of chasing another (goal), our guys were finishing off the game."
While Boston led the league with a 2.32 team goals-against average last season, the Coyotes ranked 24th, allowing more than three goals per game.
But Phoenix (4-2-0) has looked different this fall, with goalie Ilya Bryzgalov boasting a 4-1-0 record and 1.17 GAA in his five starts.
Bryzgalov's 137-minute scoreless streak ended Thursday, but he still stopped 22 shots in a 3-2 overtime win over St. Louis. The Coyotes won after Ed Jovanovski's game-winning goal was reviewed for several minutes and upheld.
There weren't many fans at Jobing.com Arena to see Phoenix's first home win. With the financially floundering franchise's future in Arizona in doubt, the actually attendance wasn't as big as the announced figure of 6,899.
"We have to make it hard for teams to come into our building," winger Vernon Fiddler said. "We've got to take pride in playing here, and we've got to take pride in teams coming in here and not wanting to play us."
Bruins defenseman Derek Morris will be facing the Coyotes for the first time since the team traded him to the New York Rangers last March. He had been a mainstay on the blue line for Phoenix since the 2003-04 season.
"It's always fun to play against guys you know," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "You wish him all the best and I hope he has an unbelievable year and that they win the East, they just don't need to win when they come into our building."
The Bruins have visited Phoenix just once since 2003, winning 3-1 there on Oct. 6, 2007, behind 36 saves from Thomas. The Coyotes won 2-1 in Boston on March 5, with Bryzgalov making 25 stops.