The St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks are playing like they expect to remain contenders in the crowded Western Conference playoff race.
The Central Division rivals each look to continue their recent strong play when they meet Tuesday night in St. Louis.
The Blues (27-22-9) won 5-1 at home over Columbus on Sunday night to improve to 3-0-1 since losing four in a row. They are tied for 11th place in the West, but sit within striking distance of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Chicago (27-25-6), meanwhile, returns to the road after winning its third straight Sunday, 2-1 over Colorado. The Blackhawks, who are 4-0-1 since dropping five in a row, are 13th in the conference, just three points back of the Blues.
"Hopefully we'll continue to play that way all down the stretch," Chicago coach Denis Savard said. "We're jelling. Whether we get in (the playoffs) or not, we're going to pay the price every night."
Tuesday's contest is the sixth meeting between these clubs this season, with Chicago holding a 3-2-0 advantage. The Blackhawks beat the Blues 6-1 at home on Jan. 16 in the most recent meeting.
Patrick Lalime made 32 saves in that victory for Chicago, and stopped 21 shots Sunday against Colorado.
With Nikolai Khabibulin day-to-day with a right knee sprain, Lalime - 10-7-1 with a 2.41 goals-against average this season - is playing well. He has stopped 45 of the last 47 shots he's faced in winning his past two starts.
"It's our hard work and dedication," said Lalime, who is 2-1-0 with a 2.04 GAA versus St. Louis this season. "We're battling right now. A lot of it is buying into the system; finally we're playing as a team."
|St. Louis Blues defenseman Eric Brewer (4) recorded a career-high four assists in the Blues' last game on Sunday. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)
Lalime and Chicago's defense were the difference Sunday as the Blackhawks' offense cooled off after outscoring Columbus and Nashville 13-3 in the previous two games.
Martin Havlat scored his second goal in three games Sunday, while Patrick Kane added an assist, giving him three in his last two contests. Kane has three goals and two assists against the Blues this season.
After a 2-1 overtime loss at Nashville on Saturday, St. Louis' offense bounced back Sunday, scoring four or more goals for the third time in four contests.
Andy McDonald scored his 100th career goal and added an assist, while Brad Boyes had a goal and Eric Brewer recorded four assists for the Blues, who have outscored their opponents 14-6 in their last four contests.
Manny Legace stopped 18 shots, one night after making 42 saves in the loss to the Predators.
"We wanted to obviously make Manny's job a little bit easier," coach Andy Murray said. "I reminded them quite strongly before the game, challenged a few guys, and indicated last night our goaltender played his butt off for us and we didn't help him very much.
"There's a few guys that had to elevate their game."
Boyes, the team leader with 31 goals, snapped a five-game scoring drought. He has two assists, but no goals against Chicago this season.
Legace, who has a 1.50 GAA during the Blues' current run, is 1-2-0 with a 2.11 GAA in four starts versus the Blackhawks this season.