Lengthy winning streaks were a hallmark of the Boston Bruins' success last season, but they've been mostly lacking throughout the team's inconsistent start.
The Bruins hope to change that with their current run, which would extend to four and match their longest of the season with a road victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.
Boston won at least five straight four different times during its ascent to the top of the Eastern Conference in 2008-09, including a 10-game winning streak in late December one year ago.
A lack of scoring has been the primary factor preventing the Bruins (19-11-7) from similar results, but they went 3 of 5 on the power play during a 6-4 win over Atlanta on Wednesday.
They came out of the Christmas break with a more defensive-minded effort in a 2-1 win at Florida on Sunday as Tim Thomas stopped 25 shots while making his third straight start.
Boston has won all three of those games, pulling into fifth place in the East. It continues to play some of the league's best defense, allowing 2.3 goals per game to rank fifth.
"It was just a matter of time. Our team is starting to gel a little bit," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We've had some new faces in our line-up, but I think we're starting to understand the concept of what we're looking for and just try to keep getting better."
The Bruins have also dealt with injuries, but defenseman Derek Morris returned against the Panthers after missing three games with an undisclosed injury, and standout left wing Milan Lucic could play for the first time since before Thanksgiving in Friday's Winter Classic at Fenway Park.
First, they'll try for a repeat of their last game against the Lightning, who lost 4-1 in Boston on Dec. 2. Marco Sturm, who had the game-winner Sunday at Florida, scored twice against Tampa Bay.
That defeat was part of a woeful 1-8-2 stretch for the Lightning (14-15-9), but they have since won three of four, beating the Thrashers 4-3 on Saturday. Vincent Lecavalier had three assists, giving him a total of one goal and six assists in the last four games.
"Vinny's the backbone of this team, and he's the captain, and everyone looks up to him," Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith said. "When he's going, everyone follows. When Vinny brings his game, everyone jumps on board and he's driving the bus."
Smith made 24 saves as teammate Antero Niittymaki missed the game due to the birth of his daughter. It's unclear which player will start in net against Boston.
This will be the first game at Tampa Bay for 41-year-old Bruins right wing Mark Recchi since the Lightning traded him to Boston on March 4. Recchi, who had 45 points in 62 games with Tampa Bay last season, had three assists against his former team earlier this month.
With Boston playing for the second time in as many nights, it's possible goalie Tuukka Rask may start in place of Thomas. Rask leads the NHL with a 1.97 goals-against average and is 6-1-1 in his last eight starts.