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Top Line: Red Wings make statement, Crosby on goalie gear, more links

Justin Abdelkader is congratulated after completing his hat trick vs. the Ducks. (Debora Robinson/Getty Images)Justin Abdelkader is congratulated after completing his hat trick vs. the Ducks. (Debora Robinson/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

A notated (and expanded!) guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:

• George Malik has all the details (literally) of Detroit's statement-making win in Anaheim last night. No one breaks down the Wings as exhaustively as George. Great stuff, as always.

• The Ducks fell flat because they couldn't match the emotional intensity of their win over Chicago two nights earlier, says Eric Stephens.

• Detroit analyst Larry Murphy reveals he was fired by Fox Sports Detroit. The timing is odd. So is the reasoning, because obviously he's to blame for the flagging ratings, rather than an inconsistent team that has yet to establish an identity with its fans. Nutty.

• The Penguins pushed their winning streak to 11 games with a 4-2 win over the Isles. No Malkin, no Letang, no problems.

Sidney Crosby has a few thoughts on the state of goalie equipment. More fascinating to me than his ideas is his willingness to express them. Sid may be a polarizing figure in fandom, but his assumption of a leadership role in league matters over the last year is a significant development.

Thomas Vanek is expected to be in the lineup tonight for the Sabres after being sidelined by a Christian Ehrhoff slap shot to the hip bone. That just sounds brutally painful.

• Not surprisingly, the Alex Edler situation prompted some inspired prose from the Vancouver area. Here's Cam Cole from the Vancouver Sun.

• There's a growing sense that the NHL's trade deadline may offer less action than My Dinner With Andre. Great movie but, you know, a bit languorously paced.

• No one is printing playoff tickets just yet, but back-to-back wins over the Winnipeg Jets pulled Washington to within five points of the first-place Jets and back into playoff contention. Will that be the turning point for their season? Here's another view, this time from Mike Vogel.

• In Winnipeg, the loss was seen as proof that any outcome is possible for the wildly inconsistent Jets. Claude Noel was left to mutter, "Seriously? 20 of us can't muster up anything better than that?"

Patrick Kane better rest up this weekend. With Marian Hossa still on the sidelines, Kane is expected to double-shift on the top two lines when the Hawks face the Kings Monday night.

• Everyone knows the name of the first goalie to don a mask. Do you know who was the first skater to wear a shield?

• The Blue Jackets set a pair of franchise records in a 5-1 win over Calgary, including earning a point for the 12th straight game.

• In Calgary, the loss highlights "a toxic waste of a season" and brings the Flames closer to a fire sale.

• The emergence of Nazem Kadri has to be one of the year's most unexpected stories. The talent was always there, but the drive, the commitment ... well, he's answering all those questions, isn't he?

• Kadri's Leafs will have to battle history if they hope to beat the Bruins today. Amazing that Phil Kessel is minus-20 in 20 games against his former team. He's due for a big one ... right?

Rich Peverley hopes to rebound after being a healthy scratch for Boston's 2-1 win over the Sens on Thursday. He's looked lost most of the year. Hopefully that benching woke him up.

• The Oilers have a big decision to make regarding pending UFA Ladislav Smid. He'd fetch a nice ransom on the market, but he's also been Edmonton's most consistent defender. I'm with David Staples -- they need to hold onto him.

• The injury-riddled Ottawa Senators might finally catch a break if defenders Marc Methot and Sergei Gonchar return to the lineup today as expected.

Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin aren't the only stars for the Halifax Mooseheads. Detroit prospect Martin Frk counted five goals among his eight points as the CHL's top-ranked team opened the playoffs with an 11-1 win over the Sea Dogs.
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