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Top Line: Crosby for MVP, Winter Classic plans, more links

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images Sidney Crosby led the Penguins during their 15-game win streak in March, stepping up while injured reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin was out of the lineup. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

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

• The struggles of the Pittsburgh Penguins since Sidney Crosby was injured pretty much settle the MVP debate, don't they?

• Details for the 2014 NHL Winter Classic. Will there be significant changes from last year's grand plans? Probably not...but at least we'll get to see the jerseys for the first time.

Alex Ovechkin continued his hot play with his second hat trick of the season and the Capitals extended their hot streak to 7-1-1 with a 4-3 win over the Panthers.

• It wasn't all sunshine for the Caps, who lost newly acquired winger Martin Erat indefinitely after he took a hard hit from Florida's Erik Gudbranson. Look for Gudbranson to get a call from Sheriff Shanny today.

• Meanwhile, nice to see Scott Timmins back in the lineup for the Panthers. Haven't heard much since his arrest, but here's hoping he's getting his personal life back in order.

• Sorry, Bruce Garrioch, but Kevin Dupont rolls out the best Sunday column in the industry. This week is one of his best yet, led by a tough, but pragmatic opinion that Boston forward Patrice Bergeron needs to consider his future in the wake of suffering his fourth career concussion. I doubt he will, but KPD is absolutely right.

• Tough week for Boston defender Matt Bartkowski. First, he found out he was expendable when he was almost traded for Jarome Iginla. Then he made a pair of errors that led to Montreal's opening goal in the Canadiens' 2-1 win over the Bruins. Chin up, kid. Even Joe Zanussi made the occasional mistake.

• Steve Simmons' Sunday column touches on the the importance of Joffrey Lupul, the OHL draft and just how close the Maple Leafs came to adding a goalie at the deadline.

• Garrioch's Sunday column identifies four general managers for whom the trade deadline might have been their last hurrah. He also says the Blue Jackets offered the Dallas Stars a first rounder for Jaromir Jagr. Class, please compare and contrast that to the deal GM Joe Nieuwendyk accepted from the Boston Bruins.

• With their defense in tatters, is it possible the Flyers will take another run at Nashville's Shea Weber this summer...this time via the trade market?

• For the Canucks, it's not whether they'll make the playoffs but how good they'll be once the postseason arrives. They didn't look particularly dangerous in a 5-2 win over the Flames, which means, Alain Vigneault still has some work to do down the stretch. NOTE: This is worth reading if for no other reason than the Anthony Michael Hall reference.

• Our own Stu Hackel has a take on the Roberto Luongo saga in the New York Times.

Henrik Lundqvist was really, really good last night against the Hurricanes. 48 saves? Seriously, full marks, Hanks. But while everyone's tripping all over themselves to congratulate him, how about a kick in the short to New York's defense for allowing Carolina to launch 49 shots on net?

• A decisive loss in Los Angeles pushed Edmonton's playoff dreams almost out of reach.

• Baseball is heating up, but L.A. is still a winter sports town. Should be a beauty today between the Kings and Ducks. Good to see that it matters in SoCal.

• Here's a good read from NHL.com on the resurgence of St. Louis forward Chris Stewart and the importance of eating right. My kids won't enjoy this one.

• Stewart's teammate, David Backes, comes into today's matinee against the Red Wings playing his best hockey of the season.

• No longer confined to a checking role, Gustav Nyquist is finding success as a top-six forward with the Red Wings.

• Apparently, the trick for Detroit coach Mike Babcock is finding a way to keep Johan Franzen pumped up about playing a hard game. Wonder if he's tried a smack upside the head while showing him a copy of his 1040?

• Morning Trivia: Who is the only player to have won the World Championship and the Stanley Cup in the same year? The answer is here.

• Adam Proteau of The Hockey News lists five players/coaches/general managers that he believes are on the hot seat.

• A couple of beauties from my buddy Adrian Dater, who explains the disillusioned state of Avs' fandom, then talks about dinner to delay getting around to his point that Colorado coach Joe Sacco needs to be fired (even if he won't say it).

• Clearly, it's time to fire Phil Pritchard and Craig Campbell.

• We're still about three months out from the 2013 NHL Draft, but scouts already have their eyes on the Kingston Frontenacs and its trio of sensational prospects for 2014.

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