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Killing time is hard work

Bruins aim to shake shorthanded blues

WILMINGTON -- The Bruins take on the Blues in St. Louis tonight and carry in with them the unfortunate distinction of being the worst penalty-killing team in the NHL.

Through roughly a quarter of the season -- 20 games -- Boston has allowed an average of nearly one power-play goal per contest. In 82 times short, the Bruins have surrendered 19 goals, which is only a 76.8 percent success rate. Saturday night in Philadelphia, it was a power-play goal late in the second period that ended up the winner for the Flyers. Coach Mike Sullivan has addressed the situation with his players, and they've been working on special teams during practice.

The next challenge is every bit as daunting as the last one. The Blues are 6-1-0-0 at home and their home power play is ranked No. 4.

"It will come around but there are definitely some things where we've got to be better," said Sullivan. "Critical moments and our awareness sometimes away from the puck is something we can improve on."

Sullivan said it boils down to better decision-making.

"It's scanning the ice, it's figuring out where the biggest threats are and trying to defend against them," he said. "The power-play goal that Philadelphia scored, we left [Tony] Amonte in front of the net. I thought we could've done a better job there. Once again, that goes to our awareness away from the puck and who is the biggest threat.

"We want to be a penalty kill that's a high-pressure unit. We want to force teams to have to make plays in order to get a scoring chance and at the same time, we don't want to be foolish with our aggression so that one pass beats three of us. There's a fine line there between being a high-pressure group and having so much aggression that it ends up becoming a fault."

Mark Recchi is the one who scored the goal, set up by Amonte and Jeremy Roenick.

"Ian Moran went back for the puck," said Sullivan. "He got real good wood on the dump. He wrapped the puck. I think we probably thought there was going to be a loose puck that we could pressure but I don't know if it hit a stanchion or Roenick was able to block it with his body and knock it down. It was tough to tell in the film.

"But he makes a good play and that's a situation where we have to make better decisions away from the puck and be able to defend against the biggest threats."

Right wing Glen Murray has seen a great deal of the Blues over the years -- from his time with the Kings -- and he said they're a formidable squad.

"No question about it, they're good on [defense]," said Murray. "They've got a tough conference. They're great up front, they're big and fast and they play great at home. It's a tough place to play in. Hopefully we can go in there and steal one. They know we're playing well and I think they'll play their best game."

Right wing Marty Lapointe, who saw the Blues regularly during his seasons with Detroit, said the Bruins expect to have their hands full.

"They're a hard-working team and they're tough to play against," he said. "We'll have to be disciplined and make sure we put a lot of pressure on their defense. They've got good scoring with [Keith] Tkachuk and [Doug] Weight. They can put a lot of goals on the board in a short period of time.

"We're going to face a team who compares to Dallas, Colorado, and Detroit. We'll have to be ready.

"It's a big challenge." . . .One of the reasons the Bruins brought in Lapointe was his leadership. The veteran is soft-spoken, but when he speaks up, people listen. Yesterday was an example. The formal part of the workout was over, and it was getting time for players to leave the ice, which they usually do one by one. Rookie Sergei Zinovjev, who has played just one of the last seven games, decided to make an early exit. Lapointe skated over to the door and strongly suggested, with the Russian translation help of massage therapist Andrei Popandoupolo, that Zinovjev remain on the ice and work on his game. Not surprisingly, the youngster stayed. It was reminiscent of a scene in the 1992 playoffs against Montreal, when Rick Bowness was behind the Boston bench. The enigmatic Rosie Ruzicka decided he didn't feel much like practicing so he bolted the ice and headed for the dressing room. Bowness chased Ruzicka into the visitors' dressing room at the Montreal Forum and in no uncertain terms told him to hightail it back to work . . . The teal practice shirt was the giveaway. Left wing P.J. Axelsson, who has a muscle injury around his collarbone suffered against Washington Thursday night, hoped to miss just one game, but he won't be making the trip to St. Louis. "It's pretty sore still, so I don't want to go out there and get banged up more," said Axelsson. "If I got another hit, it might cost me another couple of weeks or a month." He has yet to have tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, but if it doesn't get better soon, something likely will be done . . . The Bruins' next game is a Friday matinee against the Nashville Predators at the FleetCenter.

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