The Vancouver Canucks are in a closely contested division race, but the team's road struggles are a big reason for concern.
The Canucks (17-16-1) continue their four-game road trip on Thursday when they face the Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden.
Vancouver is coming off a 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. The Canucks trailed 2-0 before Trevor Linden scored in the second period - his second goal in as many games. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa later scored in the third period, but by then, the Wild had tacked on another two goals.
"We made way too many mistakes," said right wing Markus Naslund, who has a team-high 12 goals, but none in his last nine games. "It was a crucial game. There's no reason we couldn't have a good effort. We took a big step back tonight."
Vancouver entered Tuesday's contest having won three straight, but its struggles on the road continue to keep the team from making a move in the tight Northwest Division, where just two points separate the last-place Canucks from the first-place Calgary Flames.
The Canucks have been outscored 20-6 in losing four consecutive road games.
"I hate to say it this early in the year, but these games are desperate games, and we didn't play like that," defenseman Willie Mitchell said. "It was a blown opportunity by us."
Goaltender Roberto Luongo in particular has seen the effects of the team's struggles on the road. He entered Tuesday's game with a 1.33 goals-against average in his previous three home starts, but the four goals he allowed to Minnesota was the third straight road game he's given up that many goals.
Luongo is 6-7-1 on the road with a 2.76 goals-against average, and 10-8-0 with three ties and a 2.51 GAA lifetime against Boston.
The Bruins (16-13-2) are coming off a 7-2 rout of the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. Marco Sturm recorded his second career hat trick and Patrice Bergeron had five assists for Boston, which scored three goals on the power play and netted a season high in goals.
"Anytime they took a penalty, we capitalized," captain Zdeno Chara said. "It was a great team effort. We played really hard for 60 minutes and it was great to play the game."
Sturm, who has five points in his last three games, has 12 goals and 24 points - both career highs against any opponent - in 30 lifetime games against the Canucks.
With the unbalanced schedule, this is the first meeting between the teams in Boston since the Bruins won 2-1 in overtime on Nov. 15, 2003.
Boston is 38-7-0 with seven ties at home all-time against Vancouver.
The Canucks play at Columbus on Friday before wrapping up their road trip at Calgary on Tuesday.