The push to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs is in high gear with less than two weeks left in the regular season. The stakes have been raised and the games are of greater magnitude.
Here are the CFP Keys to Success for teams either holding on to precious playoff positions or trying to improve its place in the standings:
The St. Louis Blues have won four straight games powered by a franchise-record shutout streak of 240:18 entering their game Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche at Scottrade Center (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN). It's the 11th time in NHL history a team has compiled four consecutive shutouts, the fourth in the expansion era (beginning in 1967-68), and first since Brian Boucher of the Phoenix Coyotes had five straight shutouts from Dec. 31, 2002 to Jan. 9, 2003.
The Blues' dynamic goaltending duo begins with Jake Allen, whose six shutouts are second in the League. Allen has tag-teamed with Brian Elliott, who has three consecutive shutouts, to put St. Louis into a tie with the Dallas Stars for first place in the Western Conference at 99 points.
Video: STL@WSH: Allen backstops Blues to franchise record
"It's huge, and especially on a couple of shutouts, we've limited to the teens in the shots," Allen said. "That's an aspect from mine and Brian's standpoint where that's a credit to all the 20 guys in front of us; that's not just us. It goes to show we're on the upswing right now and we're playing well heading into the [Stanley Cup Playoffs]. We're right where we want to be."
Allen made 32 saves to shut down the League-leading Washington Capitals on Saturday and Elliott was named the NHL's Second Star for the week ending March 27 after making 52 saves in two appearances to help St. Louis clinch its fifth straight playoff berth.
The Blues will get a bigger boost with the return of forward Alexander Steen, who hasn't played since Feb. 20 because of an upper-body injury.
"The main concern was getting it good enough to play again, and here we are," Steen said Monday. "I'm excited to get back. It's been a while. I missed the boys and missed being part of the action."
Video: BOS@TOR: Chara beats Bernier, Bruins take the lead
'Bs' IN A BATTLE
The Boston Bruins are in third place in the Atlantic Division but their playoff position is far from secure. The Bruins ended a season-long five-game losing streak Saturday and travel to Prudential Center to face the New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET; NESN, MSG, SNO, SNP, SNW, TVA Sports, NHL.TV) on Tuesday.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara (20 games) and forward Patrice Bergeron (eight) each ended goal-scoring droughts for the Bruins, who were outscored 18-6 during their five-game skid. Besides getting two of their big guns untracked for the stretch run, the Bruins need to pick it up on the power play. Bergeron's goal Saturday ended an 0-for-13 rut with the man-advantage in those five games.
Boston's offense also needs to awaken from its slumber. The Bruins average 1.66 goals in their past nine games.
"We've been getting a lot of chances, but we haven't really found ways to score," forward Loui Eriksson told WEEI.com. "All we can do is just continue getting shots on net and try to get more people in front and really be ready if a rebound comes out and be hungry in front of the net. Maybe that's something that we can be better at. I think everyone knows we have to be better at that too."
Video: NYI@CAR: Clutterbuck cranks a game-winning goal in OT
Like the Bruins, the New York Islanders are in a fight to make the postseason with the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings behind them for the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Islanders begin a critical four-game homestand Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, MSG+, NHL.TV), who are also on the periphery of the postseason picture.
New York trails the Pittsburgh Penguins by three points for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
"I told everybody if we put ourselves in these shoes when the day of training camp opened, we'd take it, where we are," coach Jack Capuano told the Islanders website. "Now it's up to us to control our own destiny and our own business. We have to win some hockey games here."
Key to the Islanders' success is their goaltending, which has taken a step back since Jaroslav Halak sustained a lower-body injury March 8. New York is 3-5-2 since then with Thomas Greiss allowing at least three goals five times in seven starts, during which the Islanders are 1-5-1.