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Blackhawks Already Facing Playoff Atmosphere

San Jose Sharks v Chicago Blackhawks

(L-R) Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Kane (#88), Jonathan Toews (#19) and Brent Seabrook (#7) celebrate a goal by Toews against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on March 14, 2011. (Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The NHL postseason is still a few weeks away, but it already feels like playoff hockey for the Chicago Blackhawks.

As CBS 2′s Megan Mawicke reports, with just 12 games to go and the constant jockeying for position in the Western Conference standings, the intensity has heightened. Since Monday the Hawks have gone from 7th place in the West to 4th and back down to 6th on Wednesday.

CBS 2 Sports asked team captain Jonathon Toews if this race to the end is this fun or nerve-wracking.

“A little bit of both. There is a lot of pressure but I think we are very confident that when you control your own destiny the motivation is right in front of you and you work even harder in practice,” Toews said.

Rookie goalie Corey Crawford said he’s having fun with the team’s playoff push.

“Its competitive. It’s fun for the fans to have that and it keeps us ready and on our toes to play hard every night. We have to bring our best game because we know if you have an off night it might cost us a spot. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of and in these close games,” Crawford said.

The Blackhawks can’t afford to have an off night. Their next two games are critical against Dallas and Phoenix, the team in front of them and the team right behind them.

“It can’t get much bigger than these two coming up as far as what we’ve faced the whole season and there will be more of them down the stretch. The most important thing right now is to stay healthy and play like we did against San José and I like our chances,” said forward Patrick Sharp.

The good news is that the Hawks have finally turned the corner and are playing their best hockey in crunch time. The bad news is that they arguably have the toughest schedule down the stretch of all the teams fighting for playoff positions in the Western Conference. That includes 3 games against the hated Detroit Red Wings.