For all the frustration the Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals have endured this season, both teams remain in the playoff hunt.
Looking to build on a much-needed victory, the visiting Canucks must overcome an injury to another one of their top players as they try to hand the Capitals a third straight defeat Friday night.
Two nights after allowing seven third-period goals in a 7-4 home loss to the New York Islanders and hours after general manager Mike Gillis failed to publicly give embattled first-year coach John Tortorella a vote of confidence, Vancouver (30-28-10) snapped a seven-game road skid with a 3-2 shootout victory over Winnipeg on Wednesday.
Alexandre Burrows scored his first two goals of an injury marred season and Chris Higgins had the lone shootout score for the Canucks, winners of two of three following a 1-10-1 stretch.
Though the Canucks are 10th in the Western Conference and haven't won consecutive games since Jan. 18 and 21, they're very much in contention for the final wild-card spot.
"We know we have to keep winning games," captain Henrik Sedin told the NHL's official website.
Doing so could be more difficult if leading goal scorer Ryan Kesler is sidelined for a long period after a knee-to-knee collision with Winnipeg's Jim Slater. Tortorella said Kesler, who has one of his 22 goals in the last six games, will return to Vancouver as the team plays the remaining three on a four-game trip.
"He's going to get some imaging and we'll have a better indication of where he's at, but he's out for a while," Tortorella said.
Vancouver lost Sedin, who snapped a 23-game goal drought Monday, for eight contests starting in late January with rib and finger injuries, and defenseman Kevin Bieksa went down for five around the same time with a lower-body injury.
Though the Canucks prevailed Wednesday, they've been held to two or fewer non-shootout goals in 11 of 12 contests. Ranking near the bottom of the league with 160 total goals is one reason for the speculation that Tortorella's job might not be safe.
His players are focused on what they can control.
"We have to find ways to win games," said Burrows, limited to 36 games because of foot and jaw injuries this season. "For us, as players, we have to prepare the right way and focus on what we can bring to the table to help this team win games."
Vancouver has won four straight and nine of 10 against Washington (30-27-10), most recently 3-2 at home Oct. 28.
The Capitals have gone 1-4-1 in their last six. Though Washington is 11th in the East, it's three points behind Philadelphia for the final wild-card spot.
"(The desperation level) needs to be a little more from everybody,'' said Jaroslav Halak, 1-2-0 with a 2.37 goals-against average since Washington acquired him from Buffalo.
''Now, it's do-or-die for us."
Washington has been shut out twice in four games, most recently 2-0 on Tuesday when Pittsburgh completed a sweep of a home-and-home set.
Alex Ovechkin was held without a point for a fourth consecutive game after recording four goals and three assists in the first four after the Olympic break. His two goals in a 7-4 loss at Vancouver on Oct. 29, 2011, are the only points he's recorded in his last five against the Canucks.
Sedin has one goal and seven assists in his last eight against Washington.