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Top Line: Ilya Kovalchuk returning?; beer leaguer convicted; more

After retiring from the NHL last summer to sign a lucrative KHL contract, Ilya Kovalchuk has remained the subject of rumors that he will be returning to the Devils. Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

After retiring from the NHL last summer to sign a lucrative KHL contract, Ilya Kovalchuk has remained the subject of rumors that he will be returning to the Devils.

An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:

• No, Ilya Kovalchuk is not returning to the Devils this season. Or the next. Or the next. Or the next. But maybe the one after that.

• Anyone who has played adult rec hockey has been waiting for this moment to happen: A beer league player has been convicted as a result of an on-ice collision. It doesn't matter where you play, there's always some knucklehead out there who either forgets that he's not in the NHL or decides that someone with his head down is a perfect target for working out his day's frustrations. Here's hoping this story reminds everyone to think twice before delivering a highlight-reel hit.

 • So, who was the biggest, baddest Bruin of them all?

• Well, this is one way to dump a bucket of ice water on the Summer of Fancy Stats. NHL.com is now essentially prohibiting third-party sites from extracting statistical data without permission, thereby putting a possible end to analytic sites like extraskater.com and behindthenet.ca. Extra Skater was offline as of last Friday, leading to speculation that the league will launch its own statistical analysis site this season ... possibly in conjunction with Extraskater mastermind Darryl Metcalf.

• The decision by the Maple Leafs to make the purchase of tickets to their preseason games optional for season-ticket holders demonstrates exactly why other teams usually make it mandatory. Must have been quite a surprise to discover that most people don't want to pay regular-season prices for exhibition tilts.

• Brendan Shanahan intends to hire another assistant GM in Toronto? I hear Ray Shero is looking for work ...

• General manager Ken Holland was candid about the challenges that lie ahead now that he has his new four-year deal in place with the Red Wings.

• We've all spent the summer marveling at the rapid transformation of the Stars under the imaginative stewardship of GM Jim Nill, but Dallas still has issues to address before it starts planning a Stanley Cup parade. Take the team's defense. It's not just sadly mediocre, it's entirely left-handed.

• Maybe Mike Heika is on to something with this Brent Seabrook idea.

• I'm not entirely convinced that Phil Kessel gets the joke here. (Stick tap to Reddit Hockey)

• When China inevitably becomes the world's dominant hockey power, we can all blame the Canucks.

• Mike Russo checks in with Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and learns that both of the team's goalies, Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, are healthy heading into camp. But Fletcher's keeping a few numbers on speed dial just in case ... including the one belonging to Ilya Bryzgalov.

• One of the true legends of the game has passed away. Hall of Fame referee Frank Udvari died on Thursday at the age of 90. Even if you don't know Udvari's name, this piece is worth reading for his insight into the Rocket Richard Riots.

• The Avalanche are in NHL.com's 30-in-30 spotlight, where the team's surprise 2013–14 season is seen as a springboard to future success.

• Sounds like Mark Stuart is ready to take on a side gig with the Winnipeg tourism board after spending his summer in the city.

 

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