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Red Wings in fight for playoff lives

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VANCOUVER -- The urgency will be the same but the reasons will be different when the Detroit Red Wings clash with the Vancouver Canucks on tonight at Rogers Arena.

The Red Wings, a perennial Stanley Cup contender, are in the unfamiliar position of fighting to reach the playoffs.

The Canucks need a win over their final four regular-season games to clinch a playoff spot. But a recent road trip where Vancouver managed just two wins in five games has raised questions about how long the club can survive in the playoffs.

Detroit has made the playoffs 21 consecutive seasons but that streak is in jeopardy.

Heading into Friday night's games, Detroit (20-16-7, 47 points) was tied with Dallas for 10th spot in the Western Conference, two points behind eighth-place Columbus.

"It's a little unusual," veteran defenceman Niklas Kronwall said about the predicament the Red Wings find themselves in. "We are in a different spot from last year.

"Many other teams have been in the same situation. We just have to deal with it. You still want to play hard, you still want to play with a lot of desperation. We know every game is huge now. All we can do is try to look out for ourselves."

Vancouver (24-13-7, 55 points) is third in the West and four points ahead head of the Minnesota Wild in the race for the Northwest Division title.

The Canucks did not skate Friday after ending their five-game road trip with a 5-1 loss to Dallas on Thursday night. Vancouver held leads in every one of the games but players were guilty of making costly turnovers and taking mental vacations.

"It's happening too much lately," goaltender Cory Schneider told reporters in Dallas after the loss. "If you want to win in the playoffs you have to protect leads."

Vancouver won consecutive Presidents Trophies and came within one game of winning the 2011 Stanley Cup.

The team has been under a microscope this season after being upset by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of last year's playoffs.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 20, 2013 C5

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