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Top Line: The NHL's Ambien epidemic, must-read Sunday columns, more links

Alex Ovechkin showcased his star power with a hat trick on Saturday afternoon. [Mark Goldman/Icon SMI] Alex Ovechkin showcased his star power with a hat trick on Saturday afternoon. [Mark Goldman/Icon SMI]

By Allan Muir

A super-sized weekend edition guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:

• SI.com's own Adrian Dater reports the NHL and NHLPA are studying reports of Ambien abuse among the league's sleep-deprived players. Abuse of the drug was linked to the death of enforcer Derek Boogaard.

• Here are the Sunday columns from Michael Russo, Bruce Garrioch, Mike Zeisberger and Steve Simmons.

• The daughter of Buffalo owner Terry Pegula says the Sabres are really bad. Dad must have been thrilled.

Brad Richards has lost his swagger in New York, and while there's still time to salvage his season, Larry Brooks wonders if the highly-compensated center might be a candidate for a contract buyout this summer. Seems crazy on the surface, but with the cap going down and Richards not living up to his deal, it's probably been discussed.

• Alex Ovechkin's first hat trick in two years has the Caps hoping the captain is finally finding himself in the team's new system.

• He's big and hairy and making a major impact with the Chicago Blackhawks.

• Mike Eruzione's Miracle On Ice jersey just sold for how much???

Ryan Suter is starting to find his mojo in Minnesota. He's had plenty of time to work out the kinks: he's played more than 30 minutes four times this season, including Thursday night against Edmonton.

• The Battle of Ontario matched Big Ben (Scrivens) against Extra Large Ben (Bishop), further evidence of the increasing size of NHL goalies.

• Rookie blueliner Dougie Hamilton has hit a rough patch but is focusing on the little things to smooth out his transition to the big league.

• More from Dater, who said Colorado's performance in a loss to the Kings evoked the legendary ineptitude of the Washington Generals. I was surprised to read that Paul Stastny was going into a slump. I hadn't realized he'd actually pulled out of the one that he's been in for the last 18 months.

• There are jokes, there are bad jokes, and then there's this: Three North Dakota students dressed up as members of the KKK for a high school hockey game.

• Lessons learned from Sidney Crosby's concussion woes will color how the Penguins handle Evgeni Malkin, which explains why the team is keeping his status on the down low.

• The perception of him has changed thanks to a gregarious online life, but but Roberto Luongo is still the same man.

Max Pacioretty was famously bitter after being sidelined by a hard hit from Zdeno Chara. Wonder if Ryan McDonagh will feel the same way after possibly being concussed by MaxPac?

Lars Eller credits time spent with a sports psychologist for the turnaround in his game.

• The Stars are quietly aligning their game in Dallas. Amazing performance last night from Jamie Benn, who recovered from getting tuned-up by Joe Thornton to lead Dallas to an impressive win over San Jose.

• "I ain't gonna be the one to lose that game," Jordan Staal said ahead of this week's vist by his old Pittsburgh teammates to Carolina.

• Not a bad day for Tomas Tatar, who made twenty bucks at practice, then scored a big goal at night to help Detroit emphatically end a five-game losing streak.

• Awkward tweet of the night:

https://twitter.com/carrieunderwood/status/297928004540178432

You know where he'd look even hotter, Carrie? On the scoresheet.

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