Earlier this month, it seemed as if the Carolina Hurricanes may make a push toward an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
The last three games have suggested otherwise.
With time running short, the Hurricanes will try to avoid losing their fourth straight game Saturday night when they face the woeful Columbus Blue Jackets.
After dropping three of four to finish February, Carolina (31-27-10) claimed victories in their first two games this month to climb into seventh in the East. The Hurricanes are 0-2-1 since and have fallen to ninth.
However, they're just two points behind the New York Rangers, but will need to produce more offense than in their game at red-hot Washington on Friday.
"I thought we had enough chances to score more goals than one," Ruutu said. "I didn't think we played a bad game; we just didn't finish it."
While Carolina's ill-timed slump has consumed much of the past week, the Blue Jackets (31-27-9) have labored for the last two. Columbus suffered its seventh consecutive loss Friday, 4-2 to visiting Los Angeles.
The Blue Jackets got within one on Derick Brassard's goal midway through the third period, but couldn't tie the game.
"We put the big push on at the end and had some chances," coach Scott Arniel said. "Brass had that great opportunity at the end. We couldn't find a way to get it tied up."
Columbus has been outscored 24-17 during the 0-4-3 slump, its longest since a franchise-worst nine consecutive losses in December 2009.
The Blue Jackets, though, have won three straight over the Hurricanes, including 3-2 last season at Nationwide Arena. Rick Nash scored the final of three third-period goals in that game, and had three assists in a 5-1 victory at the RBC Center on Feb. 14, 2009.
Columbus' captain has three goals and four assists over his last five matchups with Carolina. He might add to that total as the Hurricanes' Cam Ward has struggled in three career matchups, going 0-2-0 with a 3.91 goals-against average.
Ward, though, is 3-1-1 with a 2.20 GAA in his past five starts. Columbus' Steve Mason is 0-3-2 with a 3.58 GAA in his last five.
Mason, however, is 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA in his career against Carolina, and Mathieu Garon is 1-2-0 with a 3.14 GAA.
Whoever starts could use more help with killing penalties. The Blue Jackets have allowed opponents to convert six of 21 power plays over the last five games. The Hurricanes, though, are 2 for 40 with the man advantage over the past 12 contests.
AccuScore has powered more than 10,000 simulations for every NHL game on ESPN.com, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions and opponent's abilities. Each game is simulated and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages.