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Blues seek to regain form heading into playoffs

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ST. LOUIS (AP) T.J. Oshie believes information overload preparing for the playoffs could be the reason for the St. Louis Blues' late-season skid.

''There's so much we're trying to pack in here,'' Oshie said after a lackluster 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night. ''I'm not sure what it looks like from up top, but guys aren't really sticking with their gut and going with their first instinct.''

A team that's been among the best in the Western Conference all season got a day off Tuesday. They want a avoid a repeat of last spring, when they limped into the postseason on a six-game losing streak and were eliminated in the first round by the Blackhawks.

If the playoffs began Tuesday, the opening-round opponent would have been Chicago.

''I don't believe it naturally comes back, you've got to work at it,'' coach Ken Hitchcock said. ''So we'll have to work at it.''

The Blues have lost two straight at home, and seven of their last 11 at the Scottrade Center. Whether mental fatigue is involved, the legs definitely look heavy.

Defenseman Zbynek Michalek put it bluntly: ''It's not good enough. Not even close.''

''Sometimes when you're slow in the head, any information you're getting is too much information,'' Hitchcock said. ''We're playing slow, everything we're doing is slow.''

Not long ago, the Blues were in first place in the Central Division and on the cusp of a seventh 100-point season in franchise history. They're stuck on 99 points, three points behind Nashville, with six games to go entering Thursday's matchup against the Calgary Flames.

''Obviously, we're having troubles breaking out of our little slump here,'' goalie Brian Elliott said. ''We've got to take some time to think about it, think about how much we want to invest and come back ready to go.''

They were in second place in the Central, one point ahead of the Blackhawks, with two of the final six against Chicago. Winnipeg and Minnesota, both closing in on playoff spots, also are on the schedule.

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Vancouver swept the season series 3-0, outscoring St. Louis 14-7. The Wild whipped them twice in March, the Blackhawks have taken two of three and the Jets won the last meeting in a shootout.

Slow starts have taken a toll. The Blues haven't scored in the first period for 10 games.

A franchise-record streak of 13 consecutive games with at least a point that began in early January is old news.

''This time of year, things are dialed up,'' Hitchcock said. ''If you don't match it, then any information you're getting is too much because you're overwhelmed.

''It's not like we're giving up a million chances, but if we increase our competitive level we'll increase our alertness.''

Odd-man rushes hurt plenty against Vancouver, which got a breakaway goal off an ill-timed line change and got the go-ahead goal 31 seconds after the Blues had tied it with what Hitchcock called a ''back-checking mistake'' that was ''Hockey 101 stuff.''

''It's ugly to look at,'' Michalek said. ''That's no way to play, especially this late in the season.''

The return of All-Star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk should help. Coming off abdominal surgery that sidelined him for 25 games, Shattenkirk has played 20-plus minutes both games back in the lineup.

But now there are injury issues at forward. Alexander Steen, perhaps the team's best overall player, could return from a minor knee injury on Thursday but Vladimir Tarasenko, among the league's top scorers, hobbled off favoring his right leg in the third period Tuesday.

From a personal standpoint, Oshie believed a one-game absence due to illness might have beneficial. He felt fresh Tuesday.

''I didn't think the flu would be good for me. But coming back and not having to sit through all the meetings and same old practices, it felt really good to get out there,'' Oshie said. ''I was excited to do something as simple as change well for the next guy coming out.''