The St. Louis Blues took a step back in their drive toward a first playoff berth in four seasons. To keep from falling further behind in the Western Conference's postseason race, the Blues will have to snap their skid against the Detroit Red Wings.
Trailing by a point for the last playoff spot, St. Louis looks for its first win in six meetings this season against the Red Wings on Thursday night in Detroit.
The Blues (37-31-9) saw their five-game win streak end in Wednesday night's 3-1 loss in Chicago and missed an opportunity to jump into seventh in the West past idle Anaheim and Nashville.
All three teams have five games remaining, and snapping an 0-4-1 losing streak against the Red Wings would help St. Louis' chances. The Blues have lost twice in Detroit this season, including a 4-3 shootout defeat Feb. 2.
After outscoring opponents 17-9 during its win streak, the Blues managed 17 shots in Wednesday's loss - their lowest output since an Oct. 24 loss to Los Angeles - and needed defenseman Jeff Woywitka's goal with two seconds left to avoid a shutout.
"It's not too often I can say we got outworked," goaltender Chris Mason said. "Tonight we got outworked. We got outplayed. It was one of our worst games, I think, in a long time."
The scoring struggles spoiled another solid effort from Mason, who hasn't allowed more than three goals in 10 straight starts. Since replacing Manny Legace in the Feb. 2 defeat, he has made 28 straight starts, and his 17-7-4 record and 2.26 goals-against average in that time are a reason why the Blues have moved from last in the West on Feb. 18 to their current spot.
Mason, who is looking to match his career high 24 wins set in 2006-07 with Nashville, is 0-3-2 with a 3.31 GAA in seven career appearances at Joe Louis Arena and has lost five straight to Detroit with a 4.21 GAA in that time.
He'll face a Red Wings team looking to avoid its longest home losing streak of the season and seeking its first season sweep of the Blues since 2002-03.
After consecutive home defeats, Detroit's chances at a fifth Presidents' Trophy in seven seasons is slipping away as the Red Wings (49-18-9) are four points behind San Jose with six games left for both teams.
After failing to score against the New York Islanders - the NHL's worst team - on Friday night, Detroit's defense faltered Sunday in giving up three third-period goals in a 4-3 loss to Nashville, including two in 22 seconds.
Detroit, however, captured its eighth straight Central Division title Tuesday night following a Chicago loss and is assured of finishing no lower than second in the West.
"We found a way to lose the game," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "That drives you crazy, especially this time of year. It's the time of year you want to be ramping it up."
Babcock's team will try to avoid its first three-game losing streak at home since a four-game skid Feb. 7-29, 2008. The Red Wings haven't dropped three in a row overall since their season-high five-game skid Jan. 17-31.
Ty Conklin, who is expected to start Thursday, is 3-0-0 with a 2.10 GAA in four lifetime appearances against the Blues, allowing four goals in two victories this season.
Detroit is making its third attempt to join Boston (1970-74) and Montreal (1975-79) as the only teams with four consecutive 50-win seasons, and Babcock would become the first coach with four straight 50-win campaigns since Scotty Bowman with the Canadiens in 1979.