A lack of consistency, especially at home, could cost the New York Rangers a fifth consecutive playoff berth. The St. Louis Blues also need a late run to return to the postseason.
The Rangers will try to avoid their fourth loss in five home games this month when the Blues visit Madison Square Garden for the first time in more than three years.
New York (31-30-9) has dropped five of seven overall (2-3-2) and is ninth in the Eastern Conference, three points back of Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Rangers, who haven't missed the postseason since 2004, will visit the Bruins on Sunday in the first of eight road games over their final 11.
"We definitely don't want this to be the end of the year," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "If we want to keep playing, we have to raise our level and play our best hockey."
The Rangers clearly haven't done that at Madison Square Garden, owning one of the league's worst home records at 15-16-6 after losing seven of their last 10.
They had won back-to-back games before falling 3-1 to Montreal on Tuesday, dropping to 1-1-2 at home since the Olympic break.
"We didn't put the effort we needed to, unfortunately," said right wing Ryan Callahan, who is third on the team with 36 points but has two in the last seven games. "We need to look ahead and not behind us."
Lundqvist, who stopped 32 of 34 shots against the Canadiens, can't be blamed for the team's recent struggles at home. He's allowed a total of five goals in the last three games at MSG but has won only once.
Marian Gaborik, the team leader with 36 goals and 73 points, has one goal and three assists in his last seven games. He's been held off the scoresheet in all three home games during that span.
The right wing has nine goals and 13 assists in 16 games against St. Louis (32-28-9), but all of that was done prior to joining New York.
The Rangers have dropped the last two meetings with the Blues, including a 4-1 defeat Jan. 16. St. Louis lost 3-2 in a shootout in the most recent matchup at MSG on March 3, 2007.
The Blues ended on a 9-1-1 run last season to finish sixth in the West and appeared to be on a similar path this season with a recent 7-1-0 stretch, but they have since dropped consecutive games.
St. Louis, coming off Tuesday's 5-3 loss to Colorado, is seven points back of eighth-place Detroit with 13 games to play.
"A lot's happened with two outs in the bottom of the ninth before, so we're not going to count ourselves out," right wing David Backes said. "We play a lot of the teams that are ahead of us still and if we take care of our business I still like our chances."
Alex Steen has five goals and five assists in seven games this month. The center scored after eight seconds of play Tuesday, tying the team record for the fastest goal, set by Greg Paslawski on Oct. 29, 1985.
Steen's 20 goals are a career high and he's one back of team leader Andy McDonald, who also has a team-high 45 points.
Steen scored a goal and set up another against the Rangers in January.