The St. Louis Blues know what it's like to be at the bottom of their division, and they're playing like they don't want to be back there any time soon.
The surging Blues look to match their longest winning streak of the season when they face the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
St. Louis (25-26-9) had the worst record in the NHL when Andy Murray took over as coach in mid-December, but has gone 18-9-5 since to pull within 10 points of eighth-place Nashville in the Western Conference.
"We have to win a lot of games to get in the playoffs," Blues captain Dallas Drake said. "We have to beat everybody, we have to get on a huge run."
St. Louis, eight points ahead of last-place Columbus (23-31-5) in the Central Division, has won three straight since a 6-5 loss to San Jose last Tuesday. Four victories in a row would match the Blues' longest run of the season, set from Jan. 16-26.
Rookie David Backes had two goals to lift St. Louis to a 5-3 win over Minnesota on Sunday night.
The Blues have scored five or more goals seven times, with all but two of those games coming under Murray. They've also gotten the first goal in 20 of 32 games since their current coach took over. St. Louis forward Jamal Mayers opened the scoring Sunday.
Backes has been hot lately, recording two goals twice in his last three games after finding the back of the net just once in his first 22. His first career two-goal game came in a 4-2 win over the Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.
"I'm getting a little more confidence, realizing if I get the puck anywhere near the net if I shoot it's got a chance to go in," said Backes, who has six goals in 27 games. "It's awesome."
Columbus has lost six of its last eight and is all but eliminated from playoff contention.
The Blue Jackets fell 3-2 to Montreal on Sunday night in the finale of a 2-4-0 homestand, the longest in franchise history.
Nikolai Zherdev and Gilbert Brule scored in the third period for Columbus. It was Zherdev's first goal since Jan. 6 and eighth of the season, while two of Brule's six goals have come in his last two games.
"It's hard mounting comebacks like that," said Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team trailed 3-0 going into the final period.
Pascal Leclaire allowed three goals for the second straight start, including Wednesday's matchup with St. Louis, after missing 20 games due to a knee injury suffered Dec. 22 against Vancouver.
"It was weird," said Leclaire, whose first post-injury action was off the bench in a 5-4 loss to Chicago on Feb. 11. "For me it was a little frustrating when I needed surgery, but stuff happens, and I'm not the first goalie who gets hurt."
Leclaire is 3-2-2 with a 2.53 goals-against average in seven starts against the Blues.
St. Louis leads the season series with Columbus 3-2-0, with all three of its wins coming on the road.
|Mar 27 '07||CBJ 4 at STL 1||F. Modin|
|Mar 25 '07||STL 1 at CBJ 4||M. Malhotra|
|Feb 20 '07||CBJ 4 at STL 5 - SO||L. Stempniak|
|Feb 14 '07||STL 4 at CBJ 2||D. Backes|
|Jan 09 '07||STL 4 at CBJ 3 - SO||L. Stempniak|
|Dec 09 '06||CBJ 5 at STL 1||S. Fedorov|
|Nov 22 '06||STL 4 at CBJ 3 - SO||B. Guerin|
|Nov 09 '06||CBJ 4 at STL 2||D. Fritsche|