After defeating the top team in the Western Conference, the Columbus Blue Jackets now look to do the same against one of the worst.
The Blue Jackets continue their three-game homestand on Tuesday night, when they seek their sixth victory over the Colorado Avalanche in seven tries.
Columbus (25-23-5) has been playing solid hockey recently, going 11-7-1 since Dec. 27. Only Central Division-leading Detroit and Dallas (12 apiece) have more victories in that stretch among Western Conference clubs.
However, the Blue Jackets were mired in a three-game losing streak heading into Saturday’s homestand opener against West-leading San Jose. They allowed the Sharks to tie the score late in the third period, but defenseman Christian Backman ended a 40-game goal-scoring drought 1:33 into overtime to give Columbus a 3-2 victory.
“We had a tough couple of games, but we were going to come out strong and play our game and that’s what we did,” said Rostislav Klesla, who had an assist. “Unfortunately, they tied it up, but we managed to score in overtime, and it was a big win for us.”
Columbus - pursuing the eight-year-old franchise’s first playoff berth - moved within one point of Vancouver and Edmonton, who are currently tied for the eighth and final postseason spot in the West.
“We needed two points (Saturday), one wasn’t good enough,” Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We can relax and get back to work on Tuesday.”
Columbus has won five of its last six matchups with Colorado, and is trying for its first-ever sweep of the four-game season series.
The Blue Jackets can accomplish that by continuing their recent success at Nationwide Arena, where they are 11-4-0 since Nov. 29. They’ve also won three straight home meetings against the Avalanche, including a 4-3 victory on Jan. 13 - the most recent matchup.
Colorado (25-27-1) plays nine of its next 11 games on the road, where it has dropped three straight games and five of its last six.
The Avalanche opened their current three-game swing on Saturday seeking a three-game overall winning streak. Chris Stewart’s goal gave them an early lead, but they gave up four goals in the final two periods and fell 4-1 at St. Louis.
“The first period was ours,” Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. “The second period was more theirs and that’s where the game was taken over and won.”
Granato’s team played the last two periods without forward Milan Hejduk, who exited after absorbing a big hit in the first. He practiced Monday, though, and is expected to play Tuesday, according to the Avalanche’s official Web site.
Hejduk, first on the Avalanche with 20 goals and second with 40 points, has five goals and an assist in his last five contests.
Columbus goalie Dan LaCosta is slated for his second career start after making 28 saves against San Jose. He was recalled from Syracuse of the AHL Friday on an emergency basis with rookie starter Steve Mason (mononucleosis) and backup Wade Dubielewicz (illness) both sidelined.