The Boston Bruins keep losing defensemen, but they keep winning games.
They'll hope one of those trends continues on Saturday in Sunrise, Fla., where they'll try to complete a road sweep of the NHL's Florida franchises against the Panthers.
Already missing Andrew Ference due to a fractured right tibia, the Bruins (17-4-4) embarked on this week's brief trip without defenseman Aaron Ward, who has been battling a leg injury.
Dennis Wideman also missed Thursday's 3-1 win at Tampa Bay with what the team called a middle body injury, leaving youngsters Matt Lashoff and Johnny Boychuk to join Matt Hunwick as reinforcements for the banged-up defensive corps.
Boston still managed to hold the Lightning scoreless for the final 58 minutes, as goalie Tim Thomas finished with 30 saves.
"We've talked all year about our depth," Hunwick told the team's official Web site. "Tonight was one of those games where we had to show it ... and put it into action. Obviously, Lash and Johnny played great tonight. They made a lot of good plays coming out (of our zone), were real physical and did a lot of good things."
The Bruins have been surprisingly good for nearly the entire season, going 15-2-1 in their last 18 games while outscoring opponents 63-32.
On Thursday, 22-year-old David Krejci scored the game-winning goal short-handed in the third period, while 21-year-old Phil Kessel had Boston's other two tallies to extend his team lead to 15 goals.
"Some of our young players continue to evolve and grow into great players," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
Behind Thomas and fellow goalie Manny Fernandez, who has won six straight starts, Boston leads the league with a 2.08 team goals-against average.
It's unclear who will play Saturday. Thomas made 30 stops in Boston's 4-2 home win over the Panthers on Nov. 21, but he was yanked from the Bruins' last visit to the BankAtlantic Center on Feb. 21 after giving up four goals on 12 shots in two periods. He is 2-5-1 with a 4.59 GAA in his career against Florida, while Fernandez hasn't faced the Panthers since 2002.
The Bruins still won both of their visits to Sunrise last season, bailing out Thomas with a 5-4 shootout win in the most recent trip.
This time, they'll face a Florida team riding its first three-game winning streak of the season and without a regulation loss in six straight contests (4-0-2). The Panthers (11-11-3) beat Buffalo 2-1 on Thursday behind 45 saves from backup goalie Craig Anderson.
"He was great, especially when we needed him the most, and gave us the chance to win against a very good team," Florida coach Pete DeBoer said. "That's the type of effort we need in the net every night."
Anderson's success has earned him four straight starts in place of Tomas Vokoun, and he's 6-1-3 with a 1.89 GAA this season. He was dominant in his most recent start versus the Bruins, making 40 saves in the Panthers' 1-0 overtime win in Boston on March 4.
Despite being held to two goals by Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller in their last game, the Panthers have shown improvement offensively. They've scored 11 goals in their last three contests, with center Gregory Campbell netting a goal in each.
"Players go through stretches that things go their way," Campbell said. "I'm not complaining right now."
The Panthers are hoping to take advantage of their last home game in nearly two weeks, as they'll begin a five-game road trip after Saturday's game. They're 6-3-2 at home.