A grueling stretch hasn't been able to keep the Columbus Blue Jackets from continuing their push toward what would be the first postseason berth in franchise history.
The Blue Jackets will take the ice for the sixth time in nine days as they host the stumbling Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night.
Columbus (30-23-6), which entered the league in 2000, is the only NHL team that has yet to play a postseason game, and enters the weekend tied with Vancouver for fifth in the Western Conference with 66 points.
Part of the reason for the optimism is a 6-0-1 surge that started on Feb. 7 with a 3-2 home win over West-leading San Jose. The last five games were particularly tough as they were played over seven days.
Following Wednesday night's 4-3 home win over St. Louis, Columbus rallied for a 4-3 shootout victory at Toronto the next night.
"There's an analogy in war fighting that you fight and you march," said the Blue Jackets' Ken Hitchcock, who became the 13th NHL coach to win 500 games. "That's what we've had to do, we fight and we march."
Hitchcock's club overcame two one-goal deficits to improve to 16-7-2 since Dec. 27. Captain Rick Nash scored, set up Kristian Huselius' tying goal in the third period then converted the decisive tally in the tiebreaker.
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Hitchcock Moves into 500 Club
Photos: @ Ducks (12-31-08)
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"These are valuable points that are going to make a difference at the end because this was a game where we probably didn't play our best but we still won," Hitchcock said. "It was one of those nights where we had no legs yet we found a way to get two points."
Winning is a trend the Blue Jackets hope to continue against a Ducks team that is in jeopardy of its first four-game skid since opening the season 0-4-0.
The latest slump has Anaheim (28-27-5) - a postseason participant each of the last three seasons and Stanley Cup winner in 2007 - sitting one point behind eighth-place Edmonton in the West.
The Ducks had a chance to improve their positioning on Friday, but fell 5-2 at Detroit in the opener of a season-high six-game road trip.
Ryan Getzlaf notched his team high-tying 20th goal 52 seconds into the game, but Anaheim didn't score again until rookie Bobby Ryan's 20th at 13:55 of the third period with the game out of reach.
"We had other chances to get ourselves back in the game but we didn't," said Getzlaf, the Ducks' leader with 67 points.
The Ducks have won seven of the last nine from the Blue Jackets, and five of six in Columbus. Anaheim took the first two meetings in 2008-09, but couldn't get any of its 27 shots past rookie Steve Mason in a 2-0 home defeat on Dec. 31.
Mason, a Calder Trophy hopeful, made 32 saves Thursday to improve to 10-3-2 with a 2.51 goals-against average in his last 16 overall. He's won six of his last nine at Nationwide Arena to improve to 15-5-1 with a 2.10 GAA in 22 home games.
Nash, pacing the Blue Jackets with 25 goals and 55 points, has three goals and five assists in his last seven games. He also has seven goals and 11 assists in 22 career contests versus the Ducks.