BRUINS (36-16-3) at BLUES (37-12-6)
Last 10: Boston 7-2-1; St. Louis 5-4-1
Season series: This is the second and final game between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues. Derek Roy collected an assist in regulation and scored the clincher in the fourth round of the shootout to give the Blues a 3-2 win on Nov. 21 at TD Garden.
Big story: The Bruins arrived in St. Louis without captain Zdeno Chara, who was granted permission to leave early for the 2014 Sochi Olympics to carry the Slovakian flag at the opening ceremony. They'll be missing a defenseman who averages 24:57 of ice time per game as they contend with a Blues team determined to rebound after blowing a two-goal third-period lead in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.
"We're looking forward to seeing those guys with a little more responsibility than when Z's around," coach Claude Julien said after practice Wednesday. "You don't win hockey games with just one player. We know one player can make a difference. But at the end of the night, when you look at the game, it's about the whole team."
Bruins: Boston has maintained its Atlantic Division lead thanks to its current 7-1-1 stretch. The run has boosted the Bruins' confidence heading into the Olympic break.
"I think we're just focusing on finishing strong, and then we'll kind of reset and have the playoff push after that," defenseman Dougie Hamilton said. "I think especially with the last couple of games, just focusing on finishing it out."
Defenseman David Warsofsky was called up from the American Hockey League earlier in the week and could see his first NHL action in more than a month. The defensive pairing of Johnny Boychuk and Matt Bartkowski saw its ice time increase this week, a trend that should continue during Chara's absence.
Blues: St. Louis remains within striking distance of the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks. But that blown lead in Ottawa hurt the Blues, who also gave up a 2-1 lead in the third period last Saturday against the Nashville Predators before rallying for a 4-3 shootout victory.
Coach Ken Hitchcock would like to nip this habit in the bud before it becomes problematic.
''We're probably taking a step the wrong way when we've got the game in good hands,'' Hitchcock said. ''We're turning pretty comfortable games into track meets.''
Jaroslav Halak will start for St. Louis after giving up four goals on 31 shots against Ottawa. That performance halted a run in which the Slovakian had allowed just six goals in his previous four games.
Who's hot: Bruins forward Jarome Iginla has 11 points and a plus-9 rating in his past six games. He earned his 600th career assist Tuesday. Forward Milan Lucic has nine points in his past seven and center David Krejci has points in four of six. … Blues forward Jaden Schwartz had two assists Tuesday and has two goals and five assists in his past nine games. Center David Backes has three goals in his past five.
Injury report: Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg (torn right ACL/MCL) told ESPN Boston his rehab has "been going well so far" and he sees "a little bit of progress each day." Seidenberg is able to ride a stationary bike and is working on getting rid of the swelling. Defenseman Adam McQuaid (leg) has missed the past seven games. … Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko (flu-like symptoms) did not take part in the morning skate and will not play. Center Vladimir Sobotka (leg) is on injured reserve and will miss the 2014 Sochi Olympics for the Czech Republic.
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNHL
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