A fully mended Boston Bruins offense looks to extend All-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist's struggles beyond one awful period when the New York Rangers visit TD Banknorth Garden on Saturday afternoon.
Boston (35-8-6) has built a big lead atop the Eastern Conference despite being without some of its top forwards in recent weeks. However, center Patrice Bergeron and left wing Milan Lucic returned Tuesday, and Phil Kessel was back on the ice Thursday.
Kessel, whose return alongside Lucic and center Marc Savard brought one of the Bruins' top lines back together, had missed six games with a case of mononucleosis before playing in a 4-3 overtime loss to New Jersey. He had two assists in his return to give him 43 points - third on the Bruins - and he remains the team leader with 24 goals.
"Phil's his usual waterbug self," defenseman Aaron Ward told the team's official Web site. "I'm sure if you ask him it wasn't all there but it's tough to see it in his game. ... He's the type of guy that flies around the ice and he's effective when his feet are moving. He had that going tonight."
Lucic sat out seven games with an undisclosed injury and Bergeron missed 15 due to a concussion before returning for a 3-2 win over Washington. Bergeron has an assist in both games since returning and Lucic had one on Thursday.
"I think for the first time back in a while we did gel well," Lucic said. "I think me and Phil not playing for a while, we didn't want to go crazy and be too fancy, but I think we played well together."
They'll surely be on the attack early trying to break Lundqvist's confidence.
He had limited Pittsburgh to one goal through two periods Wednesday, but gave up five in the third in New York's 6-2 defeat.
"I just played terrible. That's what happened. I can't explain it," Lundqvist said. "I just lost my game in the third, totally, and that's definitely not good enough. I didn't stop the puck in the third. I'm upset with myself right now."
Lundqvist had given up just eight goals in his previous five starts. However, he has been susceptible to giving up goals in bunches.
Wednesday marked the seventh time in 17 starts he's given up four goals or more, a stretch during which he's 8-8-1. He was 16-6-2 with a 2.17 goals-against average through his first 24 starts of the season.
Facing the Bruins could get him back on track. He's 9-1-2 with a 1.36 GAA versus Boston, including a 3-2 shootout victory on Nov. 15 in the only matchup between the teams this season.
Five of the last six meetings have gone to shootouts, with the Rangers (29-17-4) winning three of them. However, the Bruins won both of last season's meetings in Boston in shootouts after losing their previous four home games versus the Rangers.
While New York's only two losses in its last seven games have come at Pittsburgh, Boston's loss to Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey on Thursday was its third in five games after losing just twice in its previous 16.
"They're the team that everybody needs to measure themselves against, and rightfully so," Devils forward Jamie Langenbrunner said.