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Canadian Press writers torn on Red Wings-Blackhawks playoff series

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With 26 NHL teams on the sidelines, there are just four who still have a chance to lift the Stanley Cup.

Pittsburgh, Carolina, Detroit and Chicago have risen above the rest and all have their eyes on the prize.

With that in mind, here are our picks for the third round of post-season play:

East

No. 4 Pittsburgh vs. No. 6 Carolina

Johnston - While the Hurricanes have certainly turned some heads by knocking off two top seeds, it's hard to imagine there's much emotional energy left in the tank. Two Game 7 victories on the road will take its toll.

Pittsburgh is fresh off its own gruelling series with Washington, but has plenty of reason to be flying high. Sidney Crosby had the most productive series of his career against the Caps and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was solid in the deciding game.

Expect them to keep it up and get plenty of support from the likes of Evgeni Malkin. It should add up to a comfortable series victory and another Stanley Cup appearance for the Pens.

Prediction - Penguins in five.

Beacon - Pulling off upset wins with late heroics against the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins cannot be a fluke. With goalie Cam Ward and star centre Eric Staal both playing at their best, this team has become a contender.

They play a fast-paced game that was too much for the sluggish-looking Bruins and it will also give Pittsburgh's defence fits, especially with Sergei Gonchar limping.

But the Pens still have that explosive attack, and with Crosby at the top of his game, Pittsburgh has to be the favourite.

Prediction - Penguins in six.

West

No. 2 Detroit vs. No. 4 Chicago

Johnston - The Wings have finally won me over.

After incorrectly picking the defending champs to be upset in each of the first two rounds, I'll go with Detroit this time around. They appear hungry for another championship and won't fall victim to stage fright in the conference final.

The Blackhawks will certainly mount a challenge, but this isn't the year for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Co. Both of those players are experiencing the NHL playoffs for the first time.

Detroit is making its eighth conference final appearance in 14 years and will use its noted puck possession game to shut down Chicago. You can count on Nicklas Lidstrom to continue being a force and Johan Franzen to keep scoring goals.

Don't forget Marian Hossa, either. He's a big inspiration for his teammates after taking less money to sign with Detroit so that he could win the Cup.

Prediction - Wings in six.

Beacon - The Blackhawks' youth, skill and talent overcame a good Vancouver team and will probably be enough to get them past what looked too often like a tiring Red Wings group.

Winning two Cups in a row is a long slog for any team, even the gifted Red Wings. The Blackhawks made Roberto Luongo look ordinary with speed and depth of scoring and, while it won't be easy, they are on a roll that does not look like it will stop at a conference final.

Prediction - Blackhawks in seven.

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Records

Johnston - 2-6

Beacon - 4-4

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