Though the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks entered the Olympic break heading in opposite directions, both appear equally confident as they return to action.
The visiting Blues can win their third in a row by sending the Canucks to an eighth consecutive defeat Wednesday night.
St. Louis (39-12-6) won six of eight before the break to give it the same number of points as Central Division rival Chicago. The Blues are second in the Western Conference by virtue of having played three fewer games than the Blackhawks.
"We're excited to get back with the team and make this push and be playing strong going into the playoffs," forward David Backes said.
While Backes and Blues teammate T.J. Oshie attempt to move on from Team USA's disappointing fourth-place Olympic finish, defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester hope the gold medal earned with Team Canada isn't the only title they'll be celebrating this year.
"One championship, one more to go," Pietrangelo said. "Back to reality. Our goal is to win here in St. Louis."
The Blues ended up with four total goals in each of their last four games that were decided beyond regulation, but they need to improve a power play that's gone 0 for 18 in the last three overall contests.
They also need Jaroslav Halak to match the form that allowed him to post a 1.94 goals-against average in his last four NHL starts as he returns from a rough performance in Sochi. Halak had a 5.13 GAA in two games for Slovakia.
Alexander Steen, who won a silver medal with Sweden, ranks among the NHL leaders with 28 goals but has one and no assists in the last five games. He had a goal and an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Canucks (27-24-9) on Oct. 25 and sat out a 2-1 defeat at Vancouver on Jan. 10 with a concussion.
Though the Canucks have gone 5-0-2 in their last seven against St. Louis, they've dropped 16 of 20 and the past seven in regulation.
One point out of the final wild-card spot in the West, Vancouver has not lost eight straight since Jan. 9-31, 2009, and last dropped that many in regulation during a 10-game skid Oct. 23-Nov. 11, 1997.
"We've dug ourselves a pretty big hole here, but we need to look at it as a challenge,'' said coach John Tortorella, whose team has been outscored 26-11 in the previous seven.
"We're not dead and gone. We've allowed a lot of teams to get back in and pass us, as far the playoffs are concerned. But we still have enough games to crawl back in."
Tortorella hopes to have defenseman Kevin Bieksa back after a five-game absence with a lower-body injury, and that forward Ryan Kesler can play after blocking a shot at the Olympics.
The Canucks also seem optimistic star Henrik Sedin can play after he missed six of the final eight before the break with a rib injury. The Sedin brothers share the team lead with 40 points, but Henrik has been held without one in his last six contests and Daniel has none over nine.
Henrik Sedin does not have a goal in his last 17 games and Daniel in 19.
The brothers each have a goal and five assists in the last five games against St. Louis.
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