Bruins-Blues Preview

Boston's difficulty putting the puck in the net during its road-heavy stretch is threatening to cost it a playoff spot that seemed almost assured not long ago.

Solving that issue against St. Louis could boost the Bruins' confidence moving forward considering how well the Blues' goaltenders have played lately.

Boston hasn't lived up to its impressive road record when it has mattered most but will try to get back on track by snapping St. Louis' five-game winning streak Friday night.

The Bruins' lead for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot has been trimmed to one point over Detroit during a 1-6-0 span, and the Atlantic Division title for which they once contended is falling out of reach with five games remaining.

Boston (40-29-8) finishes a stretch of playing eight of nine on the road Sunday at Chicago. It's been especially disappointing so far since the Bruins entered that span with a 23-7-3 mark away from home, far better that their under-.500 record at TD Garden.

They've been held to 10 goals over the last seven games after losing 2-1 to New Jersey on Tuesday. They outshot the Devils 40-15 but allowed five power plays that New Jersey used to score both goals.

Boston ends the season with a three-game homestand that includes a critical showdown with the Red Wings next Thursday.

"I keep telling the guys that the only thing we control is our attitude," coach Claude Julien said. "Right now we still have a spot in the playoffs, so how are we going to handle this? Are we going to get excited about it, or are we going to stress ourselves out and not do the job?"

Defenseman John-Michael Liles missed the last two with a lower-body injury, but he's returned to practice. He said the injury wasn't as serious as originally thought and is expecting to play in this contest.

That's good news for the defensive unit, but the Bruins still have to find a way to score. They were third in the league with 3.03 goals per game through March 6 but have since been held below that average in 10 straight.

''You don't want to start banging on your heads and kind of get frustrated," center Patrice Bergeron said. "It's about getting results and putting your chin up and going out there and finding a way.''

Boston lost to the Blues 2-0 in the first meeting Dec. 22 and hasn't scored more than twice in any of the last five matchups, losing four.

St. Louis (46-22-9) posted a franchise-record four consecutive shutouts before having a scoreless streak of 258 minutes, 29 seconds end in Tuesday's 3-1 win over Colorado. Brian Elliott made 20 saves, and the crowd gave the Blues a standing ovation after allowing the goal late in the first period.

''It's almost like the pressure is off now,'' Elliott said. ''You let in a goal and you move on from the streak and try to start a new one.''

St. Louis is on the verge of winning a season-high sixth straight game and is battling Dallas for home-ice advantage throughout the West playoffs with five remaining. Having a healthy Alexander Steen should help.

He assisted on goals from David Backes and Troy Brouwer after missing the previous 15 with a shoulder injury.

''For a first game back, he did what he does,'' coach Ken Hitchcock sad. ''He's a dependable guy. It was a good sign for us.''

Elliott has started four times during the winning streak, stopping 91 of 92 shots. He'll be in net again Friday.

Tuukka Rask could get the nod for Boston, which could be without center Ryan Spooner for a second straight game because of an undisclosed injury.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.