The Columbus Blue Jackets have yet to play in the postseason since entering the NHL in 2000. Twelve games remain in this regular season, and each will have the feel of playoff hockey as they look to end that skid.
Coming off a shutout loss, the Blue Jackets host the struggling Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night in the teams' second matchup in less than a week.
Columbus (36-28-6) is in third place in the Central Division, five points behind Chicago (37-22-9), which hasn't been to the postseason since 2002. The Blue Jackets, sixth in the Western Conference, are 1-1-1 against the Blackhawks this season, but have dropped three of the last four against their division rival at Nationwide Arena.
That includes a 4-3 shootout defeat in the most recent matchup there on Nov. 1, when Columbus was 1-for-10 on the power play.
R.J. Umberger, who had 10 goals in 17 postseason games last season with Philadelphia, said Columbus needs to play with a sense of urgency from here on out.
"They're all playoff games right now," he told the Blue Jackets' official Web site. "You have to man up this time of year."
Following impressive wins over Central Division-best Detroit, Eastern Conference-leading Boston and always-dangerous Pittsburgh, Ken Hitchcock's club extended its winning streak with a 5-3 victory on Friday in Chicago. The Blue Jackets weren't sharp at all Sunday, though, losing 4-0 at home to the Red Wings.
Columbus captain Rick Nash scored Columbus' final goal into an empty net last week against the Blackhawks, and has tallied six of his team-leading 33 over the last six games.
Also the Jackets' points leader with 66, Nash needs four more for a new career high. The top overall draft pick from 2002 notched 69 points last season to pace the club.
Chicago (37-22-9) hasn't shown a sense of urgency lately, and the continued absence of Patrick Sharp could be part of the reason.
A 23-goal scorer who had a team-best 36 last season, Sharp has missed 14 games since suffering a left knee injury on Feb. 14. He has resumed skating, but there is no timetable for his return.
Chicago won its first three games without its high-scoring center, but has gone 3-7-1 since. The Blackhawks lost 3-2 on Tuesday at New Jersey as the Devils' Martin Brodeur earned his 552nd career win to break Patrick Roy's all-time record among goaltenders.
Cam Barker and Dustin Byfuglien scored for Chicago, and Nikolai Khabibulin finished with 27 saves after allowing two goals in the first 6:01.
Khabibulin has permitted seven goals to lose both of his starts since missing 12 games with a groin injury, possibly paving the way for Cristobal Huet to get the start in this contest.
Huet, who needs one win to reach 20 for the second straight season, made 17 saves in Friday's loss to the Blue Jackets. The French native made his only career start in Columbus a memorable one, stopping a career-high 48 shots on Nov. 1.