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40-30-11

Blues-Stars Preview

AP - Sports

After beating Buffalo on April 3, the St. Louis Blues held a three-point edge for the top spot in the Western Conference and led the Central Division by seven points.

Thanks to their current losing streak, they no longer hold either advantage.

St. Louis looks to avoid a fifth straight defeat Friday night as it visits the Dallas Stars, who are in the driver's seat for the Western Conference's final wild-card spot.

The Blues (52-21-7) appeared to have the Central locked up with just six games to play, but their slump has put their chances for a division title and the West's top seed in jeopardy.

St. Louis has been outscored 16-5 during its skid after falling 4-2 at Minnesota on Thursday. Colorado's 4-2 win over Vancouver later in the night tied the Central in the points column with two games to play, but the Avalanche technically hold the division lead due to the tiebreaker.

Both teams are one point behind Anaheim for the West's top seed.

''It's frustrating. It's not fun losing,'' said winger Jaden Schwartz, who scored his 24th goal. ''These are big, important games for us and it's a big time of the year. We're confident in here that we can turn this around and we got two more games to do that.''

Making matters worse, the Blues could be without center T.J. Oshie after he took a hard open-ice hit from Mike Rupp in the second period. He left the ice bloodied and did not return, and Rupp received a match penalty for an illegal check.

Coach Ken Hitchcock said Oshie is day to day.

"Certainly a tough hit to take right now," Hitchcock said.

St. Louis has dropped each of the last two meetings with the Stars, who hold a two-point edge over Phoenix for West's final playoff spot with two games remaining.

Dallas (39-30-11) fell to Columbus 3-1 on Wednesday - its fourth game in five nights - but maintained its advantage after the Coyotes lost 2-0 to Nashville on Thursday. The Stars visit Phoenix in the season finale Sunday as they seek their first playoff appearance since 2007-08.

"We've got two games and have our own destiny in our hands," winger Alex Chiasson said. "We've worked too hard this year to let it go. We've got to rest up here and give it all we've got on Friday and Sunday."

Coach Lindy Ruff hopes having a day off between games will help his team get rested.

"I haven't had to stand here this year and say, 'Wow, did we get flat-out outplayed the whole game,'" Ruff said. "There's something about this team. I love the way they fight. I love the way they come to practice. I love the battle we've had down the stretch.

"I'm very optimistic. We win two games and we're in."

Dallas is expected to start Kari Lehtonen in net for this contest after Tim Thomas made 23 saves Wednesday. Lehtonen is 3-2-0 with a 2.20 goals-against average over his last five starts, and he made 33 saves to beat the Blues 4-2 in the last meeting March 29.

Ryan Miller stopped 23 shots in that contest and likely will be in goal for this one. He's lost his last three starts, though, allowing four goals in each.

St. Louis has won three of the last four meetings in Dallas.

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