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Challenged Detroit Red Wings try to extend playoff streak to 22 with banged-up, rebuilt roster

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    Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O'Reilly is put on the ice by Detroit Red Wings defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (28) in the third period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 1, 2013, in Detroit. The Red Wings defeated the Avalanche 3-2. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) (The Associated Press)

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    Detroit Red Wings defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (28) uses his stick to trip Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) in the third period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 1, 2013, in Detroit. The Red Wings defeated the Avalanche 3-2. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) (The Associated Press)

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    Detroit Red Wings right wing Jordin Tootoo (22) tries to maintain control of the puck against Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson (6) in the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 1, 2013, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) (The Associated Press)

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    Colorado Avalanche center Mark Olver (40) skates away as Detroit Red Wings center Damien Brunner (24) celebrates his goal with forward Gustav Nyquist, of Sweden, in the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 1, 2013, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) (The Associated Press)

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    Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) skates around the ice after giving up three goals in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Detroit. The Blackhawks won 7-1. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) (The Associated Press)

Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock says the challenge of leading a young team has been exciting and invigorating.

When he hears people say the Red Wings aren't consistent, Babcock counters by saying he's never had a group of players prepare better or work harder.

That's how they have to roll in the Motor City these days because nothing comes easy anymore.

The Red Wings would be the sixth-seeded team in the Western Conference playoffs if they started Wednesday, but their 22nd straight postseason appearance is far from guaranteed. Detroit plays seven of its last 12 games in the lockout-shortened regular season on the road.

Phoenix, one of five teams within four points of the last playoff spot in the West, hosts the Red Wings on Thursday night.