Red Wings see playoff light at the end of the tunnel

DETROIT (WXYZ) - The light is there, peeking through after a season filled with darkness.

All of those shootout losses piled up at the beginning, and injuries handcuffed the roster.

It's all led to here: four games left in the Red Wings regular season, and the team controls its own destiny. A short path is all that remains, with the playoffs at the end of the tunnel.

"There's been a lot of pressure every night. I think as a group, we've embraced it," Daniel Alfredsson said on Monday.

"Coming into the playoffs, we just have to keep it going."

The roster has more of a Grand Rapids Griffins influence than anyone within the Red Wings organization expected, but the young players have carried Detroit to the top of the Eastern Conference's wild card race.

"If you want to focus on the injuries, you can do that. I think we've chosen not to do that," head coach Mike Babcock said.

There is only one week remaining and the playoff picture is still jammed with six teams still in contention for the last two spots. Babcock said this season's success will be won and lost in the next seven days.

"The reality is, the measure here is going to be over the next four games," he said.

Just a few weeks ago, the Red Wings had the deck stacked against them. A stretch of games against top contenders, and no sign of the injured ward emptying looked to be the nail in the coffin.

One tremendous comeback effort after another, with seemingly endless incredible performances by the team's young players - and all of a sudden Detroit was smelling the playoffs again.

"We've had different guys stepping up throughout the year," Justin Abdelkader said. "Especially Gustav Nyquist. The year he's had, it's been special for us."

After last year's push to get into the playoffs, the race to get in has given the locker room a familiar feel.

"We have to ramp it up for a while, I think. We've been in this battle for a long time and it's going to be tight all the way in. I like the way we've been playing," Nyquist said.

Babcock sees the light at the end of the tunnel. There's no doubt about that. Trying to get him to admit that is another thing.

Walking out of the team's locker room on Monday, the Red Wings head coach said his guys have been through a lot this year. It's led to a loose feel in the room, and as Babcock said, led them to play better at the right time.

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