ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Even if Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals have earned a reputation for quick exits, at least they've been making the playoffs year after year. That's not a given this time.
And the team is well aware of it: Every time players set foot in the practice facility, they come face to face with a display showing where Washington stands. On Thursday, the Capitals had 70 points, good enough only for 11th place in the 16-team Eastern Conference. The top eight teams qualify for the postseason.
"We've got a board in our dressing room here that says the standings. You walk by it six, seven times a day," right wing Troy Brouwer said. "So there's no way to be immune to what's going on."
Washington hasn't missed the playoffs since the 2006-07 season, although it's never been past the second round in that span.
At the moment, the fading Capitals have won only one of their last six games heading into Friday night against the visiting Vancouver Canucks, who are 10th in the West.
"The 'desperate' level," Brouwer said, "is getting up there."
Washington has 15 games left in the regular season. It's not a particularly easy schedule, either, with 10 games against teams currently in playoff position, including a daunting March 18-22 road trip to Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose.
"Obviously, we're very concerned," coach Adam Oates said. "But the one good thing about hockey is tomorrow's another game and you can't get too far ahead or dwell too much on it, because you've got to play tomorrow. It's a 'must win' tomorrow."
There have been various problems lately, including poor passing and puck possession, leading to turnovers and a lack of shots on goal.
Also glaring: Ovechkin's sudden lack of scoring.
The three-time NHL MVP and team captain leads the league with 44 goals, but he has been held without a point in each of the last four games, matching his worst drought this season.
So what's it going to take to get things turned in the right direction before it's too late?
"It can be one big hit," said Ovechkin, who's been known to dole those out. "Or it can be one good play and everybody (wakes) up and everybody (plays) much better."
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