Few opponents have been able to slow down the Boston Bruins' high-powered offense in recent months, but injuries to several top forwards may finally be catching up with the Eastern Conference leaders.
The Bruins hope to have some reinforcements on Monday, as they'll try to rebound from a rare loss when they host former Boston forward Brad Boyes and the struggling St. Louis Blues.
Averaging more than 3.5 goals per game during their rise to the top of the East this season, the Bruins (33-8-4) have had a bit of trouble lighting the lamp lately. After pulling out a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday, they fell 2-1 at Washington on Saturday.
They played that game without forwards Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron, who have combined for 39 goals and 46 assists this season but are all out with injuries. Kessel remains sidelined with mononucleosis and Marco Sturm is done for the season after knee surgery, but Lucic and Bergeron could return soon.
Boston has also been missing defensemen Aaron Ward and Andrew Ference, both of whom have been practicing.
"Right now, we are missing a little bit of firepower," Bruins coach Claude Julien told his team's official Web site. "We're not as big of a threat offensively as we have been with all of these injuries.
"We've got to find ways (to win)," Julien said. "Obviously, when you are going through those kinds of situations, you hope you are going to find those unsung heroes - somebody who's going to come up with a big goal."
The Bruins, 28-5-1 since the beginning of November, had still won four straight before Saturday's defeat, in which goalie Tim Thomas lost for just the second time in his last 12 starts. The All-Star remains second in the NHL with a 2.00 goals-against average.
Either Thomas or counterpart Manny Fernandez will face a Blues offense that has managed just one goal in three of its last four games, with the club going 1-2-1 over that span. St. Louis (17-23-4) is also 1-9-0 on the road since the beginning of December.
The Blues lost 2-1 in overtime to Chicago on Saturday - their 13th loss in 18 games overall - but coach Andy Murray was pleased with his team, which outshot the Blackhawks 28-21.
"I usually say you get what you deserve," Murray said. "That didn't work tonight necessarily."
Like the Bruins, the Blues are also dealing with injuries. While Paul Kariya and Andy McDonald remain out, veteran Keith Tkachuk has missed the last two games with a head injury. Defenseman Roman Polak broke his foot against the Blackhawks and is out indefinitely.
Boyes remains a bright spot, leading the team with 20 goals. Boyes was tied for fifth in the league with 43 goals last season, his first full campaign with the Blues after the Bruins traded him away on Feb. 27, 2007.
Boston received Dennis Wideman in the deal, and the 25-year-old has blossomed into one of the Bruins' top defensemen with eight goals and 21 assists this season.
Boyes scored a goal in his first game as a visitor to the TD Banknorth Garden, a 4-1 Blues victory on Dec. 22, 2007. The Bruins, though, won 6-3 at St. Louis on Dec. 21 and will be looking to complete their first season sweep of the Blues since 1995-96.