While there's never a good time to lose six out of seven games, the Montreal Canadiens couldn't have picked a worst one.
Mired in their worst stretch of the season, the Canadiens now face their first eight-game road trip in nearly half a century starting Saturday night against the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars.
Montreal (20-10-3) has spent most of this season atop the East with a comfortable lead in the Atlantic Division. This month, however, has not been a good one for the Canadiens, who have lost six of seven since winning their first game in December. That slump and Boston's surge has moved the Bruins within three points in the division.
Playing without reigning Hart and Vezina Trophy winner Carey Price figured to make things more difficult for Montreal, but it's a lack of offense and not goaltending that's been the big problem recently.
Rookie Mike Condon has lost four consecutive starts despite allowing three goals or fewer in each game, and current backup Dustin Tokarski has surrendered only seven goals in three starts this month.
Montreal registered a season-high 45 shots in Thursday's 3-0 loss to Los Angeles, going scoreless on three power-play opportunities.
"We dominated a lot of these losses,'' coach Michel Therrien said. ''This bad stretch will make us a better team. We're playing good hockey, so we're not panicking.''
Therrien's team has scored just 11 times during the 1-6-0 stretch while going 0 for 21 on the power play.
"It's a challenge (to stay positive)," forward Lars Eller told the team's official website. "In general, while I've been here, we've had a team that responds well to these kinds of challenges. We have a strong degree of confidence in the room. I still think it shows on the ice."
Just about Montreal's entire roster is struggling with its top three scoring forwards - Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk - combining for one goal in the past seven games.
Up next for the Canadiens is their first eight-game trip since 1968 that includes a matchup with the Bruins in the Winter Classic on New Year's Day. They'll be tested right away against a Dallas team that is tied with Washington for the top spot in the league's overall standings.
The Stars (23-7-2), though, have been cooled with two losses in three games following a 5-0-2 run. They suffered just their fourth home loss with a 3-1 defeat to red-hot Calgary on Thursday.
"We have a target on our backs, and we know that," defenseman Alex Goligoski told the team's official website. "We are seeing some pretty good games from other teams right now. It's going to be like that the rest of the way."
It's no surprise that the key to beating the Stars is limiting Tyler Seguin (42 points) and Jamie Benn (41), who have both been held without a point in Dallas' last three losses. They rank second and third in the scoring race.
Seguin has six goals and eight assists in his last nine games against Montreal, while Benn has three goals and six points in his past five meetings.
Dallas also hasn't received much production from its power play of late. That unit is 2 for 30 in the last nine games and scoreless on its last 16 chances.
These teams split two meetings last season with each winning on home ice.