The Boston Bruins are emphasizing remaining focused on the NHL season as the Olympic break nears, and it has resulted in a 7-1-1 record since the middle of January.
Remaining hot Thursday night in their second to last game before the break will require them to get through one of their tougher assignments in the 10-game span -- beating the Blues in St. Louis. They'll have to do it without one of their top players as captain Zdeno Chara has left for Sochi to carry the Slovakian flag in the opening ceremony, but other than that, there hasn't been much talk of the Winter Games.
"We haven't really mentioned anything about the Olympics, because it doesn't really affect a ton of people here and right now, it really is about us," Bruins coach Claude Julien told the team's official website.
"So I think it's important, as professionals, we have a job to do and you focus on the job that's in front of you, not the one that's a week away. So right now, our guys have done a good job in this last stretch, just playing some sound hockey, and not always perfect, but good enough to be the better team at the end of the night -- and winning hockey games."
The Bruins (36-16-3) did that Tuesday in a 3-1 home victory over Vancouver with goals from Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla and Daniel Paille. Iginla has been especially productive lately with 11 points in six games. He also had an assist against the Canucks as Boston improved to 8-1-0 in Iginla's multipoint efforts.
Boston has allowed one goal in its last seven periods, something it'll look to continue against the Blues in a matchup of two of the league's top defensive teams. The Bruins are allowing 2.13 goals per game while the Blues are yielding 2.31.
"We've been playing pretty well lately," said Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller, who made his NHL debut in a 3-2 home shootout loss to St. Louis on Nov. 21. "I know they don't give up very many goals, so we need to do a good job in our defensive zone as well."
The Blues (37-12-6) did something Tuesday in a 5-4 shootout loss to Ottawa they hadn't done all season: allowed an Eastern Conference team to leave St. Louis with a point. The Senators left with two, but prior to that the Blues were 9-0-0 at home against the East. They have, however, lost three straight at home against Boston.
Against Ottawa, they led 3-1 after a 23-shot second period but allowed three third-period goals three nights after allowing a lead to slip away in a 4-3 shootout win at Nashville. They've allowed 10 goals on a 1-1-1 stretch after allowing four on a three-game winning streak.
"We're probably taking a step the wrong way when we've got the game in good hands," coach Ken Hitchcock said after his team had 50 shots, its most since 2010. "We're turning pretty comfortable games into track meets."
David Backes also scored and has goals in three straight games.
Jaroslav Halak made 27 saves and dropped his second straight start. He'll play against the Bruins and is 2-0-0 with a 1.38 goals-against average and .954 save percentage against them since joining the Blues in 2010-11.
Boston's Tuukka Rask is 1-0-2 with a 1.58 GAA and .946 save percentage in his career against St. Louis.