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While the Boston Bruins cruised through much of November, December and January, their efforts in February left much to be desired.
A visit from the New Jersey Devils could help them open March on a positive note.
Hoping to avoid getting shut out in three consecutive home games for the first time in franchise history, Boston tries for a season sweep and an eighth win in nine meetings with New Jersey on Thursday night.
The Bruins went 29-7-2 from Nov. 1-Jan. 31, but February proved to be a different story.
Boston finished the month with a 5-7-1 record, failing to score in five of those losses. The Bruins were especially bad at home, tallying four goals while dropping four of five.
Coach Claude Julien's team, which suffered a 3-0 defeat to the New York Rangers on Feb. 14 before embarking on a 3-2-1 road swing, fell 1-0 to Ottawa at TD Garden on Tuesday to conclude a home-and-home set.
"I think we could say we could play better than that," Tim Thomas, who made 37 saves, told the team's official website. "It certainly wasn't a game where we outplayed them the whole game and lost."
Boston (37-21-3) now sits one point ahead of the second-place Senators for the Northeast Division lead.
"We knew it was a huge game and we were one shot away," said center Patrice Bergeron, who leads the team with 52 points. "We had some good chances. We're going to be in some tough games down the stretch and we've got to find a way to win them."
The Bruins haven't been handed three straight home losses in regulation since an 0-5-0 slide Jan. 7-23, 2010. The last team to suffer three consecutive home shutouts was the Minnesota North Stars from Dec. 29-Jan. 10, 1973.
If its recent efforts versus New Jersey (35-23-4) are any indication, Boston shouldn't have much to worry about. The Bruins have outscored the Devils 28-10 in winning seven of eight in the series, including all three meetings this season.
New Jersey finds itself in the midst of three-game losing streak after opening a four-game trip with Monday's 2-0 loss to the Rangers. The Devils had won seven straight in opposing arenas before managing 13 shots, their lowest total since Jan. 24, 2008.
"We have to keep going the same way," said Martin Brodeur, who turned away 13 of 14 shots. "We're doing a lot of good things. It's just not going our way right now. When we were winning, we played games we didn't deserve to win. We just have to work hard."
Brodeur has allowed nine goals in two losses versus Boston this season, dropping to 0-5-1 with a 3.31 goals-against average in his last six meetings in the series.
Thomas has dominated the Devils of late, winning six consecutive contests while posting a 1.17 GAA. He's stopped 92 of 97 shots while starting all three matchups in 2011-12.
Defenseman Greg Zanon, acquired from Minnesota prior to Monday's trade deadline, is expected to make his debut for the Bruins.