Prior to facing the Minnesota Wild about a week and a half ago, the St. Louis Blues were clinging to the Western Conference's final playoff spot before a victory got them started on a season-best run.
Minnesota's defeat in that contest began a tailspin that's mainly been the result of an offensive slump.
Visiting St. Louis looks to extend its winning streak to six games by taking a fifth consecutive meeting from the Wild on Thursday night.
The Blues (22-14-2) have bolstered their playoff chances with their surge, which started with a 4-1 win at Minnesota on April 1. They've outscored opponents 13-5 during their run, due in large part to the resurgent goaltending of Brian Elliott.
After going 0-5-1 with a 4.56 goals-against average Feb. 1-March 5, leading to a short stint in the minors, Elliott has won four games during the streak with a 1.07 GAA. He beat Detroit on Sunday and Nashville on Tuesday by 1-0 scores.
St. Louis holds a three-point cushion over eighth-seeded Detroit and trails fourth-place Los Angeles by two.
"We were in the playoff picture for a while, and then teams were catching us and we were looking over our shoulders," said Elliott, who made 19 saves versus the Wild in relief of the injured Jaroslav Halak in the last meeting. "Now we've got to look up and catch other teams. That's the way you want to do it. You want to be on your toes and going after teams."
Alexander Steen scored Tuesday for the Blues, who last won six straight during a seven-game run Oct. 22-Nov. 7, 2010.
"We've been consistent and confident," Steen said. "I think we still can lift ourselves a couple more notches."
By contrast, the Wild (22-15-2) have gone 1-4-0 starting with the loss to St. Louis. They've scored six goals and been shut out twice during the slump, including a 1-0 loss to Chicago on Tuesday.
Minnesota was eight points ahead of St. Louis and tied with Vancouver for the Northwest Division lead prior to the defeat to the Blues, who have since tied the Wild in the standings and have a game in hand.
Other than a 3-0 win over Columbus on Sunday, coach Mike Yeo's team hasn't had much to celebrate lately.
"We've given up one goal in two games. I think you'd sign up for that most of the time," Yeo said. "We need some offense from somebody other than our top line."
Zach Parise, Minnesota's leader with 15 goals, hasn't scored in the past five games.
"You have to have some pretty thick skin to make a long playoff run," Parise said. "I think we're getting there. We're starting to play some playoff-type games in a playoff atmospheres. We have to win those types of games because that's what we're going to see from now on."
They'll have to do it without forward Dany Heatley, who's done for the season after surgery on his left shoulder.
"Injuries are part of the game," Yeo said. "We have to keep going."
Minnesota has been outscored 17-7 in going 0-2-2 in its last four versus the Blues.
The Wild's Niklas Backstrom has stopped 54 of the last 55 shots he's faced, but he's allowed nine goals in two starts versus St. Louis this season.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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