Canucks down to nitty gritty

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

Five games are all that stand between the Vancouver Canucks and either a playoff berth or the birth of a new golf season.

Currently on the outside looking in thanks to the steady San Jose Sharks march led by Joe Thornton, the Canucks know there's no room for error.

As far as they're concerned, they're already in the playoffs.

"That's going to be our mentality heading into that game (tonight)," said Canucks centre Brendan Morrison of the pivotal matchup with the Calgary Flames tonight in Vancouver. "I'm sure Calgary would like nothing more than to stick it to us, so to speak. They're going to be coming out extremely hard. We're desperate. We're backed in a corner here. We're fighting for our lives."

The Canucks lost three straight games heading into a four-day break, which allowed the Sharks to leapfrog into eighth, then the seventh seed prior to last night's action.

Morrison said the break did seem to come at an odd time of year but the Canucks are hoping to use it to their advantage as they desperately try to overcome a season of disarray and squeak into the post-season.

"It's the time of year, the end of the season, you expect to be playing. But we've played so many more games than some other teams, they had to give us a break at some point," said Morrison. "I think, at this particular time, it's going to help us. It's given us some time to kind of get away from things here for a couple of days. Now, we're back at it and refocused -- really make sure we're playing our best hockey here our next couple of games."

The coastal city has had a big black cloud hanging over it lately and it's not just because of the rain Vancouver is famous for. Rumours of a dressing room split and a coach that has lost the confidence and control of his players have persisted as the Canucks slid down the Western Conference standings over the last few months.

"We're in a hockey market. We're under the microscope here day in and day out," said Morrison. "When things are going well, everything's great. But when things hit a bit of a rough patch, it's a difficult time.

"It's not like an everyday job where you can leave your business at the rink. You try as best you can but when you are the show in town, everybody talks about it outside. You go out to the store, people have comments, they want to ask you about this and that. You never really escape it.

"That's part of the business you have to deal with. I know guys in here, we're doing everything we can to give ourselves a chance.

"But it's been tough."

So is the rest of the team's schedule. The Canucks have a crucial home-and-home series against the Sharks, which could determine their fate.


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