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After one of the best starts in franchise history, the Boston Bruins appear to be stumbling toward the finish line as their hold on the Eastern Conference's top seed continues to slip.
They're hoping a couple of new faces might help.
The Bruins, who made a pair of deals before Wednesday's trade deadline, could have veterans Mark Recchi and Steve Montador in the lineup for the first time Thursday night as they host a Phoenix Coyotes team further weakened by four last-minute trades.
Boston (42-13-9) has as many losses in its last 11 games as it did in its previous 42, following a torrid 34-5-3 stretch from Nov. 1-Feb. 5 by going 3-5-3 since, as its conference lead over second-place New Jersey has shrunk to six points.
While the Bruins' power play appears to be back on track after going 6-for-15 in the last four games, their defense has allowed four goals in each of the last two games.
"We're not showing a lot of chemistry and emotion right now. We've got to pick up the consistency," forward Michael Ryder said after Tuesday night's 4-2 loss to Philadelphia. "We know we have a good team and we know we can win. If management thinks they can do something that can help us, that's good."
General manager Peter Chiarelli responded at the deadline, sending forward Martins Karsums and defenseman Matt Lashoff to Tampa Bay for Recchi and a second-round pick in 2010, just moments after acquiring Montador from Anaheim for forward Petteri Nokelainen.
After totaling 45 points in 62 games for the Lightning, the 41-year-old Recchi adds scoring and a veteran presence to Boston's young group of forwards. Montador, meanwhile, helps to deepen a defensive corps that has been banged-up at times.
"I know we've been in a bit of a lull," Chiarelli said. "... I expect our players to respond. There's going to be a little more competition for ice time. That's a good thing."
Against Phoenix, Tim Thomas is likely to return to the crease after Manny Fernandez lost his fourth straight start Tuesday. Fernandez has a 3.42 goals-against average over that span, while Thomas' 2.06 GAA for the season leads the league.
While the Bruins gear up for a playoff run, the free-falling Coyotes (27-31-5) all but conceded their season Wednesday after going 3-12-0 since the All-Star break to fade from postseason contention.
Their series of deals was headlined by the trade of Olli Jokinen and a draft pick to Calgary for Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a first-round pick. Jokinen, a former 90-point scorer with Florida, had 21 goals and 21 assists in 57 games in his first season with the Coyotes.
They also traded forward Daniel Carcillo, defenseman Derek Morris and backup goalie Mikael Tellqvist in separate deals, acquiring several players and draft picks.
Phoenix's crumbling club has scored one goal in each game during a three-game losing streak, and its 3-1 defeat Saturday night marked the team's second loss to the last-place St. Louis Blues over that span.
"We have too many guys not working hard," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "Plus, the same guys are making the same mistakes over and over. Consequently, you're not going to be successful."
This game is the Coyotes' first visit to Boston since they won 2-1 in overtime on Dec. 11, 2005. The teams haven't met since the Bruins' 3-1 win in Phoenix on Oct. 6, 2007.
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