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By LARRY LAGE
AP Hockey Writer
DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock says the challenge of leading a young team has been exciting and invigorating.
When he hears people say the Red Wings aren't consistent, Babcock counters by saying he's never had a group of players prepare better or work harder.
That's how they have to roll in the Motor City these days because nothing comes easy anymore.
The Red Wings would be the sixth-seeded team in the Western Conference playoffs if they started Wednesday, but their 22nd straight postseason appearance is far from guaranteed. Detroit plays seven of its last 12 games in the lockout-shortened regular season on the road.
Phoenix, one of five teams within four points of the last playoff spot in the West, hosts the Red Wings on Thursday night.

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