If any team can understand the early struggles the Boston Bruins have endured, it's the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Bruins look to avoid a third consecutive loss Saturday night when they visit the Blackhawks in a matchup of the last two Stanley Cup champions.
Suffering from a Stanley Cup hangover while trying to find the right chemistry with a revamped roster, Chicago went 8-9-2 to open last season. The Blackhawks never fully recovered, as they barely made the Western Conference playoffs and lost to top-seeded Vancouver in the first round.
They can certainly empathize with the reigning Stanley Cup champion Bruins (1-3-0), who have had trouble finding their own footing through the first week of the season.
"We felt our start last year put us in a rough spot all year long," coach Joel Quenneville told the Blackhawks' official website. "We know the value of where they are. Teams are ready for you coming off that type of season.
"They've been busy but they are still a dangerous team."
The Bruins are learning that as all three of their defeats have come by one goal, including 3-2 at Carolina on Wednesday.
"The difference between us having the results we want isn't that far off," said 2011 playoff MVP Tim Thomas
, who is 1-2-0 with a 2.02 goals-against average.
Coach Claude Julien, however, believes the Bruins need to work harder. Especially stars Zdeno Chara
, Milan Lucic
, David Krejci
and Nathan Horton
, who have combined for one goal and two assists.
"Whether it's the effects of a short summer or whether it's (their) mental state ... we've got to work ourselves out of it," Julien told the Bruins' official website. "There's a lot of players that aren't playing at the top of their game."
One area the Bruins certainly need to improve is on the power play, where they are 1 for 17. After going 0 for 5 on Wednesday, that unit could find things even tougher against a Chicago squad that has killed eight of nine penalties.
Julien also knows that while the Blackhawks (2-1-0) understand what the Bruins are going through, Chicago is a team with something to prove after a disappointing performance in 2010-11.
"I don't think anybody is going to feel sorry for us right now," Julien said. "It's really up to us to battle our way through and sometimes a real tough opponent is what you need to get the best out of a lot of us."
Boston has won five of seven against Chicago, losing 5-4 in a shootout in its last trip to the United Center on Dec. 18, 2009.
Thomas is 5-1-1 with a 2.40 GAA versus Chicago.
The Blackhawks will try for a third straight victory after they rallied from an early two-goal deficit to beat Winnipeg 4-3 at home Thursday. Patrick Kane had a goal with two assists and new linemate Marian Hossa added one of each.
Playing his first season at center, Kane has that goal and four assists. He has two goals with three assists in six games versus Boston.
After sitting out Thursday with a lower-body injury, Corey Crawford will be in net for the Blackhawks. Crawford, who allowed two goals in each of his previous two starts, lost 3-0 at Boston on March 29.