VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks can feel the pressure starting to mount.
With just four wins in their last 16 outings following a dismal 1-4-2 road trip, the Canucks know playoff spots aren't earned in November but they can definitely be lost.
"We had a good start to the season so it saved us a little bit," Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin said after Friday's practice at Rogers Arena. "We lost a lot of games and we're still in the race."
The Canucks return home to face Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday and the New Jersey Devils on Sunday before hitting the road to take on Minnesota, Dallas, Anaheim and Los Angeles, a tough-four game stretch that makes this weekend's back-to-back even more critical.
"We've all seen the standings. Everyone's winning around us," said Sedin. "If you don't start winning soon you're going to be out of it pretty quickly."
Despite picking up four of a possible 14 points on that seven-game trip, Vancouver (7-7-6) played well for stretches, only to be undone by a faltering power play, a lacklustre penalty kill and lapses at key times.
"If you lose a lot of those close games it's because you make a few too many mistakes," said Sedin. "We're good enough that we can win those games, but at the same time we make a few too many mistakes to really earn those games. That's been our problem."
Canucks netminder Ryan Miller had an especially rough trip on and off the ice. He lost all five of his starts ??? including his return to Buffalo against the Sabres ??? and also got a lot of attention by becoming one of the strongest voices against the shrinking of goalie equipment.
The downturn was disappointing, but Miller said that rocky patch can be a positive for Vancouver moving forward.
"Going on a trip like that, losing points like we did, it's not ideal, but it can be something you use the right way or you make it detrimental to your season," he said. "We're trying to use it the right way and be a better overall team."
"We didn't have a great trip, but it's something we can park."
The first game back after a long time away can often be a trap for the home team Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins said his team will need to be in top form against the defending Stanley Cup champions from Chicago.
"We can't afford that. We can't wait for a game to start playing well," he said. "We just have to make sure we take care of ourselves and play well and give ourselves the best chance to win."
Vancouver should get a boost to the lineup with the return of veteran winger Brandon Prust, who has missed the last 11 games with an ankle injury.
"It's tough sitting out at any time, but when you're sitting out and your team's losing some games it makes it a little harder," he said. "You want to get out there and try and contribute any way you can. It's going to be good to get back.
"We haven't pressed the panic button, but we definitely need a sense of urgency here."
Notes: Canucks forwards Brandon Sutter and Radim Vrbata, as well as defenceman Ben Hutton, missed Friday's practice. Desjardins said there's a chance Vrbata will play against the Blackhawks, but added Sutter's injury that has forced him to sit out the last four games is a bit more serious than initially though. The coach said Hutton got "banged up" towards the end of Wednesday's 4-1 loss in Winnipeg. ... Chicago visits Edmonton on Friday. ... New Jersey beat Vancouver 4-3 in overtime in the second game of the Canucks' road trip.
Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter