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Top Line: Quick, Kopitar struggle in L.A., Stars rookies to the rescue, more links

anze-kopitarAnze Kopitar, who was so vital to the Kings in their Cup run last season, has struggled to produce lately. (Jae C. Hong)

By Allan Muir

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

• The Kings are rolling, but star center Anze Kopitar is fighting it with just one goal in his last nine games. And he's not the only one struggling: Jonathan Quick ranks 24th in goals against and 41st in save percentage but he hasn't lost the trust of his teammates.

• Funny thing about lousy teams dressing a bunch of kids down the stretch: they sometimes find a way to win. The Dallas Stars were buzzing on the energy provided by newcomers Alex Chiasson and Lane MacDermid in an unexpected 3-1 win over the Ducks that pushed them two points further from the Seth Jones Sweepstakes.

• "Hey, Rob...what are you doing tonight?" 43-year-old former roller hockey star Rob Laurie was an emergency backup in net last night for the Ducks.

• The new-look Buffalo Sabres found another way to win Friday night. Luke Adam, Jochen Hecht and Brian Flynn broke long scoring droughts to lead the effort.

Cory Conacher was "decent, if not spectacular"  in his debut with the Senators.

• The Blues are being extremely protective of rookie Vladimir Tarasenko. Is it time to give him a little more leash, or do the desperate nature of the times require it to be shortened?

Jussi Jokinen was brilliant in his Pittsburgh debut, scoring two key goals and going 13-of-15 in the circle to power the Pens to a 2-1 win over the Rangers.

• Dan Bylsma was "purposefully restrained" in describing the Michael Del Zotto elbow that laid out James Neal.

• Despite the loss, the revamped New York Rangers look a lot more like last year's powerhouse squad than the lumpen sad sacks that floated through much of the season.

• The Colorado Avalanche finally played before a packed house...but it was full of Red Wings fans who were thrilled about their team’s OT victory. Danny DeKeyser managed to keep his nerves in check for his NHL debut.

• Enthusiasm and work ethic will also be key for an injury-riddled Philadelphia squad that is making a late charge for a playoff berth.

• It was a perfect night for Flames' fans, who saw a high-energy effort from their team but no points on the board to keep them in the running for the top pick.

• Calgary's top prospect Johnny Gaudreau isn't sure if he’ll turn pro next season. Odds are he'll stay in school to play with his incoming freshman brother.

• The Winnipeg Jets have been outscored 20-6 during a five-game losing skid that reminds everyone they used to be the Atlanta Thrashers and threatens to end their playoff hopes. They start a six-game homestand tonight. It's pretty much win five or start phoning for tee times.

• Here's another fine piece from Roy MacGregor on how concussion has become a four-letter word in the NHL. Funny how many guys are suffering "whiplash" all of a sudden, eh?

• It looks like the Maple Leafs are playing that game in the wake of Joffrey Lupul's injury. Sure looked like a concussion, but you won't hear it from anyone at MLSE.

• Central Scouting released top 10 draftable players lists from each of the key North American leagues early this morning. No surprises...other than leaving the best prospect in the OHL, Sean Monahan, off the list. Whoops.

• Central Scouting offers some player comparison insight into some of the top prospects.

• If you're a prospect hound, you already know Travis Konecny. If not get to know the 15-year-old first overall pick in this morning's Ontario Hockey League draft.

• Five 2013 first-round hopefuls were among those named to Team Canada for the upcoming U-18 World Championships.

• Traktor Chelyabinsk may lose possible top-five pick Valery Nichushkin to the U-18 tourney right in the middle of the Gagarin Cup Finals. That could pose a problem.

• Great story on Team Canada goaltender Shannon Szabados and her path to the Women's World Championships.

• Finally, here's some pretty sweet footage of the Cup champion 1933 New York Rangers.

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