The St. Louis Blues have officially moved into position for a wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Now, they are eyeing a climb further up the standings, with a golden opportunity in front of them when they visit the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday to kick off a three-game road trip.
"Right now we're in," Blues forward Ryan O'Reilly told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after Tuesday's 8-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils. "We have to keep fighting. Every day, you've got to find a new way. We have to keep reinventing ourselves and know the importance of the points ahead of us."
It's amazing what a seven-game winning steak and 11-2-1 roll can do for a club that appeared destined to play out the string a month ago. The Blues (28-22-5, 61 points) head into their clash with the Coyotes (25-26-5, 55) with a real chance to move into third spot in the Central Division.
"It's fun winning," Ivan Barbashev, who collected his first career multi-point game with a two-goal, one-assist outing against the Devils, told NHL.com. "We've just got to keep winning."
The list of Blues players contributing is growing by the day. Rookie goalie Jordan Binnington has been outstanding during the club's turnaround. Star forward Vladimir Tarasenko has seven goals and 14 points in a career-high nine-game point streak. Even snakebitten forward Jaden Schwartz snapped his 21-game goal-scoring drought against the Devils, lighting the lamp for the first time since Dec. 18.
"I don't know if I've gone through something like that before where I just couldn't buy one," Schwartz told the Post-Dispatch. "I can't really explain it or really know what to say, but there's obviously frustrating days when you're losing and you're missing chances. It's obviously not as frustrating when you're winning games."
The Coyotes are coming off a 5-2 road victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday, their second straight win after a five-game losing skid. Arizona blew a 2-0 lead but broke the game open with three unanswered third-period goals.
"There's no quit in this team," Nick Cousins, who got the game-winner, told NHL.com. "It's unbelievable with all of these injuries and all the adversity that's been thrown at us this year. There's a no-quit mentality. When they tied it 2-2, there was no panic on the bench."
Despite a litany of injuries all season, they Coyotes are hanging in the playoff fight, sitting four points out of a wild-card spot thanks to the turtle derby happening in the Western Conference.
"It's just a no-excuse mentality," goalie Darcy Kuemper said. "Everyone's working hard, even in games like this where they come out and have the first period they do, you can still see our effort and the way we're defending and competing in the little areas of the ice that make the difference between getting scored on or getting a chance."
"We weathered the storm when we could," coach Rick Tocchet added after the win over Vegas. "I thought we had some big goals from some big guys at crucial times. That bend-don't-break defense helped us tonight ... (There's) a long way to go, and a lot of hockey left, but this is a big win for this team."
The Coyotes may get a boost against the Blues. Brad Richardson, who hasn't played since Jan. 10 because of an upper-body injury, will be a game-time decision.
--Field Level Media