The Bruins hope to avoid their fourth straight loss Sunday when they travel to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins for the second time in four days.
When a groin pull sidelined Thomas for seven games earlier this month, the Bruins (18-13-4) went 4-3-0 behind newly-acquired goalie Alex Auld, including one stretch of three straight road wins. Since then, though, they’ve lost three straight and four of five - all at home.
“It’s not where we wanted to be on this homestand,” defenseman Mark Stuart said. “It is disappointing.”
The last two losses have come with Thomas back in net, including a 4-1 defeat to St. Louis on Saturday afternoon. Thomas had a 2.14 goals-against average before his injury, but has allowed seven goals since returning while his team deals with more health issues.
The Bruins, already missing Patrice Bergeron (severe concussion), are expected to be without defensemen Aaron Ward and Andrew Alberts again Sunday, as well as forward Glen Murray. Ward broke his foot during Friday’s practice, Alberts has missed three games with post-concussion syndrome and Murray suffered a hip flexor in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Penguins on Thursday.
“There are circumstances and situations,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told the team’s official Web site, “but somehow you still have to find a way to get the job done.”
Boston has had trouble getting much done offensively in recent games, scoring two or fewer goals in four of the last five. The only time they scored more was Thursday at home against the Penguins (17-16-2), when they erased a four-goal second-period deficit but ultimately lost 5-4 in a shootout.
That was the Penguins’ third straight win against the Bruins, with star Sidney Crosby totaling three goals and six assists in those contests. However, it was also Pittsburgh’s only win in its last three games overall.
The Penguins are 2-4-0 in their last six, including a 4-2 home loss to the New York Islanders on Friday.
With starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury sidelined since Dec. 6, the Penguins have been struggling to keep the puck out of their own net. They have allowed at least four goals five of their last six games.
Backup goaltender Dany Sabourin is 1-4-0 with a 3.87 GAA in his last five games.
“We expect him to be better,” said Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien, who left open the option of Ty Conklin - who made 37 saves in Thursday’s win over Boston - facing the Bruins again.
Sidney Crosby had three first-period points at Boston, assisting on two Evgeni Malkin goals and scoring one himself, but the duo has been part of a Pittsburgh power play that is just 2-for-25 in the last five games.
“We have the skill to make some plays and make some passes (on the power play), but we have to move the puck better. We have to be better,” Crosby said. “It’s easy to talk about, correct this and correct that, but we’ve got to find a way.”