By Mike Lipka
Los Angeles (29-30-10) at Boston (45-17-9) 7 p.m. EDT
BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Bruins' lingering slump has left their
position atop the Eastern Conference in jeopardy, but they've
shown signs lately that they could be turning it around at home.
The Los Angeles Kings have shown little reason for optimism on
the road, and their recent skid seems likely to have more dire
The Bruins will try for a fourth straight home win Thursday
night against Los Angeles, which has lost six consecutive road
games as it fades from playoff contention in the West.
One of the NHL's most consistent teams for the first four months
of the season, Boston (45-17-9) has been anything but steady
over the past six weeks, stumbling on a 6-9-3 stretch that has
New Jersey and Washington quickly closing what was once a wide
gap in the race for the East's top seed.
The Bruins' latest loss was 6-4 at Pittsburgh on Sunday, as the
Penguins scored four third-period goals to come from behind.
Boston's beleaguered penalty kill allowed two goals on eight
chances, with opponents going 10-of-38 (26.3 percent) in the
last nine games.
"You can't look at anybody but yourself," rookie right wing
Blake Wheeler said. "Obviously there's calls you don't really
like, but that's part of the game. We can't put them on the
power play that much, and we did."
Boston has been erratic offensively during its swoon, but
defense was the problem against the Penguins as Tim Thomas
matched a season high with five goals allowed.
Bruins opponents have scored at least four goals seven times in
the last 18 games - more times than in Boston's previous 45.
"Our guys, I thought, competed hard (Sunday), but they did not
compete well," coach Claude Julien told the Bruins' official Web
site. "And it resulted in penalties and it resulted in scoring
chances against. I mean, the slot opportunities that team had
against us last game was as (many) as I've seen our team give."
Still, Boston is hoping a three-game home winning streak is a
sign of progress. On the heels of their first three-game home
skid of the season, the Bruins have beaten Chicago, Ottawa and
the New York Islanders to improve to 24-6-5 at the TD Banknorth
The Kings (29-30-10) used a five-game road winning streak last
month to climb back into contention, starting that run with four
victories against East teams. But they've now lost six in a row
(0-5-1) away from home, falling to 13th place in the West.
Thursday opens a six-game road trip for Los Angeles, which plays
10 of its final 13 away from home and knows it needs to improve
its play on the road.
"We know we can do it," center Michal Handzus said. "We did it
when we went to the East Coast earlier in the year. We've got to
Los Angeles enters the trip having dropped three straight and
nine of 13 overall, including Monday night's 4-3 loss to
Nashville. Handzus tied the game midway through the third
period, but Erik Ersberg allowed the game-winner with 2:18 left.
"I don't want them to put this game behind them," coach Terry
Murray said. "There's learning points in the season and this is
real important here for us to understand what is going on."
Jon Quick could return to the net against Boston. A Connecticut
native, Quick starred collegiately at the University of