Red Wings face pivotal week to keep playoff streak alive

DETROIT - Springtime, sunshine, and playoff hockey arrive in Detroit each year at the same time, but after a 21-year streak, that's all on the line this week.

The Red Wings are in the middle of an uber-tight race to sneak into the Western Conference playoff picture. It's new territory for most of the team's top players, who have only known about playing hockey well into April.

Heading into Monday's game against the Phoenix Coyotes, Detroit is three points out of the eighth spot, with a game in hand of most teams.

"There's been pressure all along here. We know it's kinda been like a playoff the last two-three weeks," forward Justin Abdelkader said.

Niklas Kronwall is one of many Red Wings who have been a part of the impressive streak. He said the challenge of fighting for a spot in the last week is something every player in the locker room has accepted.

"Right now we're outside, but we have a chance to get in. We just have to make sure we take care of business."

With so much of the focus on the week as a whole, head coach Mike Babcock continually pointed to the 'one game at a time' approach. He did open up and shed light on the big picture, because frankly, it's what makes the Red Wings the franchise they are.

"The streak is important because it's impossible to do. Look at pro sports, it's impossible," he said.

"Pressure means you've got a chance, because if you didn't have a chance, there'd be none....I think it's fun to be in big games."

The Red Wings have played well against the top teams in the Western Conference this season, which gives them fair reason to believe the postseason could give them a clean slate.

And a chance.

"We've played some really good hockey against the good teams, but at the same time we haven't been playing good hockey against the not-so-good teams," Kronwall said.

"In saying that, we have to make sure we do a good job of picking up points on a nightly basis."

The schedule this year has altered the playoff itinerary a bit, pushing the plans back a few weeks. That doesn't mean much to Babcock's ultimate factor.

"I've always said, 'It's my birthday April 29th, and when you're playing hockey on my birthday that means you're usually playing in the second round of the NHL playoffs.' This year, if you're playing hockey on my birthday, that's a good thing too," he laughed.

The Red Wings aren't kicking themselves or feeling bad for the position they're in. Abdelkder said the standings don't lie, and "You are what your record says you are." Right now, this is a team on the outside looking in.

A lot can change in one week.

Brad Galli is a Sports Reporter for WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad on Twitter @BradGalli .

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