A renewed defense has the St. Louis Blues climbing back into playoff contention. The Dallas Stars are looking to turn around a lagging offense to keep from falling out.
A tight Western Conference race has both teams searching for a way to get ahead of the pack, and a win Thursday night at the American Airlines Center could help.
With 65 points, Dallas (29-23-7) sits among a cluster of teams jockeying for the final four postseason berths, and the Blues (26-26-8) are just outside with 60.
St. Louis has won four of its last six, while the Stars are trying to avoid a season high-tying third straight loss.
Despite scoring four times in the past three games, the Blues have stayed on track with a 2-0-1 mark thanks to a defense that has allowed one goal each time. St. Louis has given up eight goals during its 4-1-1 stretch.
The play of goaltender Chris Mason is a big reason for the turnaround. Mason endured a 3-13-1 start with a 3.14 goals-against average, but he's gone 9-3-4 with a 1.63 GAA since and taken over the starting job.
After allowing a first-period goal Tuesday night against visiting Phoenix, Mason, who has made 16 consecutive starts, shut out the Coyotes the rest of the way for a 2-1 win.
"Obviously there's a lot of hockey yet to play, but we're moving in the right direction," center Jay McClement said. "It's a good sign that we kind of found a way to win."
The Blues, however, have one win in their last 10 trips to Dallas and allowed 10 goals in a pair of defeats there last season.
St. Louis will look to take advantage of a Stars team that's scored 11 goals in the last seven games. Dallas is 3-4-0 in that time, and losing Brad Richards to a broken wrist has only amplified those struggles.
Without their second-leading scorer, the Stars have one goal in the last two games and couldn't take advantage of a strong defensive effort in Monday night's 1-0 loss to San Jose.
Dallas goaltender Marty Turco held off the West's best team for two periods, but the Sharks broke through with 13:05 remaining.
"There were a lot of positives," defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "The work ethic was there and we battled hard to the end. If we play like that, more often than not we are going to win games."
Richards, who has 48 points, is expected to miss six to eight weeks, and center Mike Modano is day to day after sitting out Monday night with the flu. Captain Brenden Morrow, who had a team-leading 32 goals last season, hasn't played since suffering a knee injury Nov. 20.
Without their top scorers, the Stars are on the verge of their first three-game skid since Nov. 20-24, and will likely turn to Turco to help them end the slide. Turco, who has made 30 straight starts, is 7-3-1 with a 2.05 GAA in his last 11 against the Blues.
In the only meeting this season between these teams, however, Turco was pulled after allowing five goals in two periods of a 6-1 loss in St. Louis on Oct. 16.