Despite occupying the Western Conference cellar for much of this season, the St. Louis Blues still have a shot at their first playoff berth in five years. Beating teams ahead of them in the standings - such as the Columbus Blue Jackets - is the surest way to reach the postseason.
St. Louis seeks to beat the Blue Jackets for the sixth consecutive time Wednesday night when the teams face off in Columbus.
An 8-2-4 record in their last 14 games has lifted the Blues (24-25-7) into the hunt for their first postseason appearance since 2003-04, although they still lag behind 12 teams in the West. After victories in their last two contests, they also have an opportunity to match their longest win streak of the season, set from Oct. 13-18 and matched Nov. 21-25.
"It doesn't take much to figure out it's going to be a tough road, and we're going to have to play really well," said winger B.J. Crombeen, whose team is 3-0-2 in its last five road games. "But we believe we can do it, and it's showing in our play."
To reach three straight wins overall, St. Louis will have to continue its stellar play against the Blue Jackets, whom they've beaten five straight times and in seven of the last eight meetings. The Blues are also one of the few teams to vex Columbus rookie goaltender Steve Mason, whose 2.05 goals-against average and seven shutouts rank among the league leaders.
St. Louis has scored nine times in two wins this season against the Blue Jackets and Mason, who has compiled a 4.03 GAA versus the Blues.
The Blues feature another goaltending Mason - Chris - who has turned his fortunes around along with those of his team.
After starting 3-13-1 with a 3.14 GAA, Chris Mason - no relation to Steve - is 7-2-3 with a 1.56 GAA and three shutouts in his last 12 appearances. He has also stopped 41 of 42 shots in consecutive wins and followed up a Friday night shutout of Chicago with Monday's 2-1 victory over the visiting New York Rangers.
"I want to be in there every night. It's a honor to play every night in this league," said Mason, who is 10-1-1 lifetime against Columbus with a 1.80 GAA. "I really appreciate getting the opportunity, and I enjoy being in there."
R.J. Umberger's two goals gave the Blue Jackets (28-23-6) a second-period lead at home against Dallas on Tuesday night, but they failed to put the puck in the net again and lost 3-2 in a shootout, ending a four-game win streak.
"We've had games like this, where we outplayed the other team and didn't win the game," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "When we went up 2-1 and had all those chances, we left the game out there."
While Umberger has given the Blue Jackets' offense a boost with three goals in the last two games, Columbus will be without veteran winger Fredrik Modin for at least a week.
Modin, who has nine goals and 25 points in 49 games, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a lower-body injury.