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After missing the playoffs each of the last two seasons, the St. Louis Blues appear to be regaining their status as one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
The Blues look to continue their surge Tuesday night when they visit the struggling Calgary Flames.
St. Louis (15-8-1) has gone 8-1-1 in the last 10 games to move into second place in the Central Division and fourth in the conference. It's a stunning turnaround for a club that went 21-46-15 in 2005-06 and 34-35-13 last season, finding itself out of the playoffs both times after making it 25 seasons in a row.
St. Louis beat Chicago 3-1 on Saturday to reach the 15-win mark - something it didn't do last season until Jan. 10. The Blues moved past the Blackhawks and are seven points behind Central-leading Detroit.
"We've played some pretty good hockey lately," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "You're pleased, you got 15 (wins). It's amazing how many more you have to get. To me, it's nice, but there's a lot of them to go after."
A big key to the Blues' turnaround has been the team's defensive play, as St. Louis has allowed a conference-low 53 goals. The Blues gave up a Western Conference-high 292 goals two seasons ago and their 254 allowed last season was also among the worst in the West.
Manny Legace, expected to start in goal for St. Louis on Tuesday, is 11-6-1 with a 2.22 goals-against average. He has one shutout this season - Nov. 25 against Calgary, when he made 24 saves in a 3-0 victory.
Brad Boyes is having a breakout season and leads the Blues with 15 goals, two shy of his total last season with Boston and St. Louis and nine off his career-best mark set in 2005-06 with the Bruins. The right wing has six goals and three assists in the last nine games - including a goal in the last meeting with Calgary - to give him 21 points on the season, four behind Paul Kariya for the team lead.
Boyes has six points in his last four games against the Flames.
Calgary (10-13-4) is hoping to avoid a season high-tying fifth consecutive loss after a 4-3 overtime defeat to Columbus on Saturday. The Flames lost five in a row from Nov. 1-10.
They've been outscored 16-7 during the current slide, which includes defeats in the first two games of a four-game homestand. Calgary is 6-7-3 at the Pengrowth Saddledome after winning a league-high 30 home games last season.
"It doesn't feel good right now. It never feels good when you don't win," Flames right wing Jarome Iginla said.
"But at the same time, we've had a lot of guys that have been through things like this. We know the urgency, we know how important these games are, and we're working. We know that if we stick with it, keep working at it, keep the habits right, and get a little bit better and a little bit better, all of a sudden you get on a roll and we're close."
The slide isn't the fault of Iginla, who has six points in the last three games and ranks among the league leaders with 36 points. He has six points in his last four home games against the Blues - all victories.
The Flames have been struggling defensively, though, due in part to some spotty play by Miikka Kiprusoff. The 2005-06 Vezina Trophy winner, who made 22 saves against the Blue Jackets, is 10-11-4 with a 3.00 GAA. He hasn't posted a shutout after totaling 17 over the last two seasons, tying New Jersey's Martin Brodeur for the most in the NHL during that span.
Kiprusoff, who was not in net for the Nov. 23 loss, is 7-2-1 with a 2.27 GAA and a shutout in 10 starts against St. Louis.