The Carolina Hurricanes probably don’t have much of a chance to win the Metropolitan, but a recent surge has pushed them closer to one of the division’s automatic playoff berths.
The St. Louis Blues continue to rack up points as they chase the top spot in the Central.
Carolina goes for a season-high fourth straight win Thursday night when it visits a St. Louis team that has earned a point in its last five games.
The Hurricanes (19-18-7) trail first-place Washington by 22 points in the Metropolitan, but they’ve taken advantage of some struggles from both New York teams to pull within six points of second and third place.
Carolina moved one point back of Pittsburgh with a 3-2 win on Jeff Skinner’s power-play goal in overtime Tuesday, improving to 11-5-3 in its last 19.
"We’ve been staring at the standings all year," said center Eric Staal, who had a goal and an assist to give him four points during the win streak. "We talked about (how) we scraped and clawed … (and) now you’ve got to climb, you’ve got to beat teams in front of you."
Center Elias Lindholm assisted on all three goals after registering an assist in a 4-3 overtime win over Columbus on Saturday and scoring twice in a 4-1 victory over the Blue Jackets on Friday that started the win streak.
Carolina hasn’t taken four in a row since Nov. 1-7, 2014.
"I think we have (believed we could make the playoffs) all year," Staal told the Hurricanes’ official website. "I don’t think that’s changed. Other people might not, but I think the guys in our room have been committed to what we’re trying to accomplish here.
" … I like the vibe and feeling that we have. We have to grow that confidence and keep winning these close games. That will put us in the right spot."
St. Louis (25-14-7) had been in a bunch of close games – four straight decided after regulation – before scoring the final four goals in a 5-2 win over visiting New Jersey on Tuesday.
The Blues are 2-0-3 in their last five and sit in third place in the Central, three points behind surging Chicago and five back of Dallas.
Center Patrik Berglund scored twice against the Devils in his sixth game back after missing the first 40 with a shoulder injury, and Brian Elliott made 22 saves in his second straight win starting in place of an injured Jake Allen.
Berglund had one goal and one assist in his first five games.
"You’re always worried for a player coming back from such a long-term injury, when does he hit the wall, but I think he hit the wall earlier than we thought and now he’s punched through it," coach Ken Hitchcock told the Blues’ official website. "He seems more energized than he’s ever been, which is a good sign for us."
St. Louis won both meetings last season in shootouts and has dominated Carolina at home since the franchise moved from Hartford, going 8-2-1 with a tie.
That trend could continue as the Hurricanes enter with three losses in their last four on the road, while the Blues have gone 5-1-1 in their last seven on home ice.