The Front axle should slide right out.
Before pulling everything, grab the axle u-joint by hand and see if there's any movement in it or turn the wheels out and rock it back & forth while watching. U-joints should not have any play in them.
With the slowing to a stop mention that you feel, it sounds like maybe more drivetrain related like its one of the Driveshafts.
You should double check your Front & Rear driveshaft U-joints as well before pulling the front axle shaft.
Jack the front up off the ground to take the weight off, and by hand grab each u-joints to see if there's any play in them and then do the same for the rear.
I had I cracked u-joint before that I could not find until I took the weight of the vehicle off the ground.