The Boston Bruins have one of the best power-play units in the NHL. The Chicago Blackhawks hope they're on their way to improving one of the worst.
Both clubs look for strong special teams play when they meet Friday at the United Center for the first time since 2004.
The Bruins (18-13-3) are converting 20.2 percent (36 of 178) of their power-play opportunities this season, one of the league's top marks. They experienced a season-high six-game drought from Nov. 28-Dec. 9, but since then have recorded at least one extra-man goal in seven straight games, converting 13 of 47 chances (27.7 percent) during that span.
Patrice Bergeron's power-play goal gave the Bruins a two-goal lead in the second period Tuesday, but they couldn't hold on, losing 5-4 in overtime to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The defeat snapped a three-game winning streak, but Boston managed to extend its points streak to four games.
"With a one-goal (third-period) lead on the road, you would like to get those wins," said Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who made 19 of his 37 saves in the third period. "I'm not sure if it was a matter of them pouring on the pressure or if we still have our Christmas legs."
Bergeron, who also had an assist Tuesday, has certainly been putting pressure on the opposition during a career-high tying nine-game points streak, recording five goals and 11 assists in that stretch. He may have trouble maintaining that run against the Blackhawks, who are allowing an average of just 1.36 goals over their last 11 home games, going 8-2-1 in that span.
Denis Arkhipov and Martin Lapointe scored on the power play Tuesday as Chicago beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 at the United Center. The Blackhawks (16-15-5) went 2-for-4 on the power play after going 0-for-15 in the previous three games.
"We talked a lot," said Arkhipov, who also assisted on Lapointe's goal. "Instead of a lot of passes tonight, we stayed in front and shot the puck and got some rebounds. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's not."
Despite the improved results, the Blackhawks have converted only 12.3 percent (21 of 171) of their extra-man opportunities this season.
"It should be a confidence booster for us, but our power play has to improve," Blackhawks coach Denis Savard said. "Down the road here to the end of the year, it's going to help us get points."
Lapointe's eighth goal of the season was his first in 13 games, and now he'll try for another in his first meeting with his former team. The veteran right wing played three seasons for the Bruins from 2001-2004, recording 40 goals and 43 assists in 205 games. He signed as a free agent with the Blackhawks before the 2005-06 season.
Chicago has lost just one of its last eight home meetings with the Bruins, and is 15-4 with three ties in the last 22 overall matchups, including a 2-1 overtime victory at the United Center on Feb. 14, 2004.