I’m not exactly going out on a limb when I write this, but I’ll do it anyway: there’s no way Pittsburgh is going to beat Detroit three games in a row. So, yes, I view tonight’s Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final at Mellon Arena as a must-win for the Penguins.

It’s a positive sign for the Pens that they don’t seem uptight heading into this huge game down 2-1 to the defending Cup champs in the series. In fact, star forward Evgeni Malkin unleashed his inner Dane Cook (profanity free) yesterday during the off-day press conferences when asked about teammate Max Talbot. Malkin’s Russian counterpart from Detroit, Pavel Datsyuk, made his own quips when talking about his possible return to the lineup for the first time since midway through the Western Conference finals. There’s nothing better than a little post-Soviet era stand-up comedy to fill the time between games.

But looking back onto the ice, history tells us that Detroit — with its pedigree and overwhelming depth — will make the necessary adjustments and grab a win on the road tonight. Datsyuk’s possible return could lessen the workload on center Henrik Zetterberg, and the Wings will probably tighten up their struggling penalty kill (or just stop taking foolish penalties).

The Penguins think that despite the same series deficit as last year, the circumstances are different this time around. And they’re pretty much right. But one thing that’s not different is the Wings’ top-to-bottom strength, which will take another near-flawless game by the Pens to take down.

I think Joe Starkey of the Tribune-Review wrote it best today:

The Penguins insist it’s different this year, even though the bottom-line reckoning reads the same as last year’s Stanley Cup Final, three games deep:

Detroit 2, Pittsburgh 1.

Some of us happen to think they’re right, by the way, that things really are different; that the Penguins really do have a genuine shot to win this thing.

But there’s only one way to prove it: Win tonight.

Win tonight, and the pressure reverts back to Detroit.

Win tonight, and a suspenseful series becomes something more than a concept.

Win tonight, and all the talk about how the Penguins are better prepared for the big stage this year and know how to beat Detroit this year and feel much better about themselves this year becomes a lot more believable.

Lose tonight, and it’s over.

I’m going to say that the Wings’ adjustments and addition of Datsyuk will be too much to handle and that Pittsburgh goes down in Game 4 and loses the series in 5.