Red Wings know they can't lay off the throttle in Game 4

DETROIT - By the time the final horn sounds at Joe Louis Arena tonight, the Red Wings could find themselves up 3-1 in their best-of-seven series with the Blackhawks.

"I can't imagine it," Brendan Smith said of the possibility.

"It's kind of like a dream come true, being my first playoffs. That'd be quite exciting."

The Red Wings aren't putting the celebration before the battle just yet, though. It will take a complete 60 minutes to take Chicago down for the third straight game, and players in Detroit's locker room know they can't take their foot off the gas pedal.

"I don't think we should think about that too much, just focus on the game and keep playing like we did," Damien Brunner said after Detroit's skate Thursday.

Chicago eased through their first round series against the Minnesota Wild, and after drubbing the Red Wings in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, the Blackhawks seemed to be in dominant mode again.

The Red Wings response has been vivacious and loud, and although they've grabbed two victories in a row, the Blackhawks have had opportunities to change the tide.

"We have to play at our best if we're gonna have a chance to win. Look at Game 3 here, they had a lot of chances, hit a few posts, and the small things decided the outcome of that game," Henrik Zetterberg said.

If not for a disallowed goal that would have tied the score at 2-2 in Game 3, the series could have a much different tone.

"We've got to play good...play our game. We do that, we have a chance."

A positive sign for the Red Wings has been the production from all four lines during the series. As the pressure has grown and the attention has magnified, the confidence within each of the team's young players has increased.

"I think we've been improving all year long, especially at the end here," Gustav Nyquist said after scoring the Red Wings first goal in Game 3.

"We know we have to play as a team to be successful and that's what we're trying to do."

Finding themselves in the lead is a new position for a lot of those younger players, but Mike Babcock said he's going about preparations the same way.

"We never talked about being ahead or behind, even before, we just talked about the game we're gonna play and that's what we're doing here again now."

Once the game is over, they could be talking about doing something not done in Detroit since 2009: preparing to advance to a Western Conference final.

Brad Galli is a Sports Reporter at WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad on Twitter @BradGalli

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