Caps, Canucks in rare position to fight for Wild Card slot

WASHINGTON – As the Capitals and Vancouver Canucks prepare for their Friday showdown at the Verizon Center, each team finds itself in somewhat foreign territory – on the outside of a playoff position.

The Capitals, who have reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs each of the last six years, enter play Friday in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a wild card spot. The Canucks, winners of five straight Northwest Division titles, come to the District in 10th place in the Western Conference, four points out of a wild card position.

It has certainly been a turbulent year for both Washington and Vancouver, two cities that have grown accustomed to regular-season success, albeit with mixed results in postseason play. Consider that since 2008, the Capitals and Canucks are the only two teams to have won five division titles and the only two teams to have won multiple regular-season conference titles.

Yet here we are, less than three years removed from the Capitals and Canucks finishing atop the Eastern and Western Conference standings, and both teams are fighting desperately to avoid a spring without playoff hockey.

“The ebb and flow in this season has been as challenging as it’s ever been,” Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis told reporters this week at the GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. “There are reasons for it

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