The Columbus Blue Jackets were just three points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference when they left for a season-high five-game trip late last month.
Although they remain in 12th despite going winless during that stretch, the Blue Jackets return home in a much worse place.
Columbus tries to avoid a season-high sixth straight defeat when it concludes a home-and-home set with the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.
The Blue Jackets (31-26-8) rolled into their five-game trip with a three-game win streak and an 8-2-1 mark in their previous 10, moving them into the thick of the playoff race.
Columbus also brought a franchise-record six-game road win streak into the trip, but went 0-3-2 on the swing that ended with a 5-4 shootout loss to the Blues (29-28-9) on Monday.
The Blue Jackets, who lost by one goal four times on the trip, have fallen seven points out of eighth place with 17 games left.
"Anything but a win is a step backward for us right now," Steve Mason said after stopping one of four tiebreaker attempts.
The Blue Jackets have not lost six in a row since an 0-7-2 skid from Dec. 10-26, 2009.
Columbus, though, has gone 3-0-1 in its last four at Nationwide Arena. In the last matchup there between these Central Division rivals, the Blue Jackets ended the Blues' season-best seven-game winning streak with an 8-1 victory Nov. 10.
Columbus tied the highest goal output in franchise history and was the club's most lopsided win in its 10 years of existence.
The Blues, losers of eight of 12 on the road in this series, look to snap a three-game skid away from St. Louis.
The Blues avoided a season high-tying fifth straight defeat Monday as Ben Bishop made 19 saves and stopped two of four shots in the shootout. He replaced an ineffective Ty Conklin, who was pulled in the first period.
With Bishop in net, St. Louis rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the opening 10:10.
Bishop, though, was sent to Peoria of the AHL on Tuesday with Jaroslav Halak coming off injured reserve. Halak has missed the last 11 games with a fractured hand and hasn't started since Feb. 14.
Halak is 1-2-0 with a 3.78 goals-against average versus Columbus this season. He was replaced by Conklin on Nov. 10 after yielding four goals on 15 shots.
Whoever starts in net may have to be even more effective if Patrik Berglund can't play. The center, who has a team-high 10 goals and 23 points since Jan. 13, left in the third period Monday with a lower-body injury after scoring and adding an assist.
Blues leading scorer David Backes ended a five-game point drought by setting up both of Andy McDonald's goals in that contest. Backes has four assists and five points versus the Blue Jackets this season, both team highs.
Columbus forward Rick Nash had two assists Monday for his first points in five games, while Jakub Voracek's first-period score was his first goal since Feb. 25.
Nash and Voracek each have a team-best six points against St. Louis in 2010-11.