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Bruins aim to continue home success

By Mike Lipka

Stats Writer

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

consequences.

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

Garden.

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

get better."

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

Massachusetts.

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