(SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Blues clinched a playoff berth the last time out and will try to forge a tie for first place in the Central Division when they visit the Dallas Stars on Friday.
The Blues picked up just their second win in seven games with a 4-1 decision over visiting Calgary on Thursday, but it was good enough to lock up a fourth straight trip to the postseason.
With 101 points, St. Louis is two behind Nashville for the top spot in the Central Division and has a game in hand to use over the idle Predators on Friday. The Blues have five tests remaining in the regular season compared to Nashville's four.
Chicago, meanwhile, is just one point behind the Blues in the division standings and plays tonight in Buffalo before hosting St. Louis on Sunday. The upcoming tilt in the Windy City will cap a brief two-game swing before the Blues finish the regular season on a three-game homestand against Winnipeg, Chicago and Minnesota.
Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny, Jori Lehtera and Patrik Berglund each had one goal and an assist to help the Blues pick up the much needed win over the Flames. Jake Allen made 17 saves for the win, which came without leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen.
"That was impressive to watch from my end," Allen said. "It could have been a lot higher score, but their goaltender [Jonas Hiller] played great. What an effort from the guys. Coming down to the wire, clinching a playoff spot, a couple of our key players out, guys stepped up tonight. It was impressive."
Steen and Tarasenko missed Thursday's game with lower-body injuries and both players are questionable for tonight. Tarasenko is pacing the club with 36 goals and 71 points, while Steen is the Blues' second-leading scorer with 62 points.
Brian Elliott is expected to start in net tonight for the Blues and is 4-3-0 with a 2.80 goals against average in his career versus the Stars.
The Stars have injected some life into their season with a recent surge, but losses in two of their last three games have the club on the verge of mathematical elimination in the Western Conference playoff race.
Dallas won nine of 11 games before going 1-2-0 in its final three contests in March. The club is six points behind Los Angeles and Winnipeg for the last playoff spot in the West. The Jets, Kings and Stars all have five games remaining.
The Stars lost Monday against visiting Calgary by a 5-3 count. The setback dealt another nearly fatal blow to the club's already slim postseason chances.
Dallas led 2-1 after 20 minutes before the Flames scored three straight in the second period to take control of the contest. The Stars would cut the deficit to 4-3 early in the third stanza, but that was as close as it would get.
"We emptied the tank again and we played extremely hard," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "There were some tough breaks. But for me it's not over yet. We're going to keep pushing."
Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Jason Demers all scored for the Stars.
Kari Lehtonen allowed four goals on 19 shots and was pulled late in the second in favor of Jhonas Enroth, who stopped all five shots he faced in relief.
Dallas is expected to get some players back for tonight's contest, including forward Valeri Nichushkin, who is set to play with the Stars for the first time since Nov. 6. Nichushkin suffered a hip injury that required surgery but recently completed a three-game conditioning stint with the Texas Stars of the AHL.
Defenseman Jordie Benn is expected to return tonight after missing two straight with a back injury, while forward Shawn Horcoff is questionable with an illness.
The Stars have five wins over their last seven meetings with the Blues overall, but St. Louis has won two straight and five of the past seven in Big D.
Dallas has a disappointing 16-15-8 record as the host this season. St. Louis is 22-12-5 on the road.