After winning the first two of a challenging three-game trip, the Chicago Blackhawks know a final difficult task awaits against one the NHL's best home teams.
The streaky Blackhawks look for a fourth straight victory when they face the rival St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.
Since Jan. 21, Chicago (36-24-7) has lost nine in a row, then won four straight before losing the next three prior to its current three-game winning streak.
"You know over the course of a season, you're going to have some good stretches and some tough stretches," coach Joel Quenneville said.
This current stretch of success might be the most important for a Chicago team hoping to improve its sixth-place standing in the Western Conference. After beating reeling Toronto 5-4 at home Wednesday, the Blackhawks posted a pair of 2-1 victories at Ottawa on Friday and Sunday in Detroit. All have come without star captain Jonathan Toews, who will miss an eighth straight game with an apparent concussion.
Ray Emery has stopped 71 of 74 shots during the three-game winning streak. Patrick Sharp has a goal with three assists in the last two games and Patrick Kane has three goals in four.
"Just playing that team game we've been seeking for the whole season," forward Jamal Mayers said.
The Blackhawks hope to follow that same game plan while trying for a third straight victory over the Blues (41-18-7), who are coming off a 5-1-0 trip that moved them into second place in the West.
After losing 3-0 at St. Louis on Nov. 8, Chicago won 5-2 there Dec. 3 and 3-1 at home Feb. 19. Though the Blackhawks have won 11 of 16 against their division rival, St. Louis returns home where it's 26-4-4.
The Blues had a five-game home winning streak snapped with a 4-2 loss to Boston on Feb. 22 - their first regulation defeat at Scottrade Center in 22 games since falling to Chicago.
"It's a tough building to win in, and we've got our work cut out for us," Mayers told the Blackhawks' official website. "We want to focus on ourselves. Clearly they've been playing well. It's a huge challenge for us."
Chicago hopes to make strides on the power play, where its 3 for 10 in four games following an 0-for-39 stretch. The Blackhawks are 2 for 10 on the power play against the Blues, who have killed off their last 27 penalties.
T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk each had a goal with an assist as St. Louis improved to 33-0-0 when scoring at least three goals with a 3-1 win at San Jose on Saturday.
"We're a hard team to play against," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We don't have much quit in us and we're willing to work for it."
Oshie has a goal and six assists in the last five games but nothing in the last two versus Chicago. Teammate Andy McDonald, who had a goal at Chicago, has three in the last three games overall.
St. Louis' Jaroslav Halak, who has a 1.55 goals-against average during his five-game winning streak, is expected to start Tuesday. He made 29 saves against the Blackhawks in November for the first of six shutouts this season.
Emery is 3-0-0 with a 1.30 GAA all-time against the Blues. Teammate Marian Hossa has three goals in the last two versus St. Louis.
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