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Thrashers-Bruins Preview @NHL

Opponents haven't had much success against the Boston Bruins anywhere this season, but especially not at the TD Banknorth Garden. That doesn't bode well for the slumping Atlanta Thrashers.

The teams conclude their home-and-home series Saturday night in Boston, where the surging Bruins will be trying for their 11th consecutive home victory.

Boston (20-5-4) lost six of 11 contests during the first month of the season, but has gone an NHL-best 15-2-1 since the start of November to climb to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

"There are a lot of good things going on," said Bruins coach Claude Julien, whose team holds a seven-point advantage on Montreal for the Northeast Division lead. "It's nice to be where we are. The month of November really propelled us."

Julien's club has been especially dominant at home, stringing together 10 straight wins - the Bruins' longest such streak since reeling off 11 in a row from Dec. 5, 1982-Jan. 29, 1983 at the old Boston Garden.

Location didn't matter for Boston on Friday night. The Bruins matched a season high in goals, scoring four times on five shots in the first 11:56 to effectively put the game away early in a 7-3 victory at Atlanta.

Six Bruins finished with at least two points. Defenseman Mark Stuart scored twice, while winger Phil Kessel had a goal and two assists to help Boston bounce back from Wednesday night's 3-1 defeat at Washington that snapped a five-game overall win streak.

Kessel, who has 11 goals and nine assists during his NHL-best 14-game point streak, also has five goals and five assists during a seven-game run at TD Banknorth Garden. Leading the Bruins with 18 goals and second on the team with 29 points, Kessel was born more than four years after Boston's most recent 11-game home winning streak.

Former Thrasher Marc Savard, who leads Boston with 26 assists and 34 points, has six assists during a four-game point streak versus Atlanta (9-15-4). He totaled a career-best 97 points for the Thrashers in 2005-06 - one season before joining the Bruins.

With Friday's defeat, Atlanta dropped to 2-8-2 following a season-high five-game winning streak. Todd White had a goal and an assist for the Thrashers, who have lost four straight to the Bruins including three in a row in Boston.

"It was just one of those nights," said coach John Anderson, whose Thrashers are tied for last in the league with 22 points. "I'm not sure we can afford to have one of those nights, but they happen."

Anderson's club has been plagued by shaky defense, yielding 46 goals over the last 12 games. Goalie Ondrej Pavelec gave up three goals on four shots Friday before being replaced by Johan Hedberg. Regular starter Kari Lehtonen remains sidelined by a back injury.

Boston's situation in the net has been more stable, with Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez limiting opponents to 2.10 goals per game.

Thomas made 27 saves Friday, but Fernandez is expected to start Saturday. Fernandez is 5-0-0 with a 1.80 goals-against average in five career games versus the Thrashers.

Atlanta Ilya Kovalchuk has five goals and five assists during a seven-game point streak versus the Bruins, and has 33 points in 26 all-time matchups.

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