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Top Line: The Ovechkin of old, Hawks clinch a playoff spot, more links

Alex Ovechkin It took him a while to get going, but Alex Ovechkin is white hot these days. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

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

• It's just like old times for Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Both are back in league-leading positions after Sunday's win over the Lightning.

• Here's more on that Dodger Stadium outdoor game I wrote about yesterday. The Kings are now talking openly about their desire for a game against the Ducks. They're looking at a Jan. 25, 2014 date for their chance to host outdoor hockey in Southern California. Hint to boss: If you need anyone to cover this one...

• The Ottawa Senators have dropped the first three stops of a seven-game road trip and Tim Wharnsby notes a common theme. He also touches on the revival of the Caps and Jaromir Jagr's hardcore practice habits.

• Their play over the past two games suggests the Dallas Stars might be a better team without Jagr in their lineup. I'll have more on this later today.

• Sunday's win over the Predators earned the Blackhawks the first ticket to the 2013 Western Conference playoffs.

Patrick Kane is right. It's tough not to get emotional about this moment from yesterday's Hawks/Preds game.

• Buffalo's young players have 10 games to prove they can step up and fill the leadership void in the Sabres' dressing room.

• Three straight losses dropped Minnesota perilously close to ninth spot in the West, making last night's 3-0 win over Columbus one of the season's biggest for the Wild.

• The Wild are hoping that shoulder surgery for Dany Heatley will have him back in the lineup before the end of the regular season. That doesn't sound right, does it?

• St Louis played its third contest in 3-1/2 days, but offered a gritty two-way effort to support a return-to-form game from Brian Elliott in a win over Detroit.

• Sunday's 1-0 loss to the Blues forces the Red Wings to take the hard road to secure a spot in the Western Conference playoffs.

• A shootout loss to the Ducks ended L.A.'s chances at the Pacific title, but the Kings were happy with a playoff-caliber performance.

• A pair of rookies made very different impressions on Mike Babcock this weekend. It didn't take Detroit's coach long to decide that 2010 first-rounder Riley Sheahan isn't ready to contribute just yet, but the coach liked what he saw from free agent signee Danny DeKeyser.

James Reimer has a lot to learn from a battle-tested netminder like Henrik Lundqvist. The two face off tonight as the Maple Leafs host the Rangers.

• I guess a headline like "Morrow's value to Pens should come in playoffs" is a nice way of saying the former Dallas Star hasn't done much since arriving in Pittsburgh, eh?

• Apparently, last week was the best ever to cover the Vancouver Canucks. Clearly Ed Willes wasn't around in the Sheldon Kannegiesser days...

• The Edmonton Oilers need to find the intensity button as they try to make their case for playoff legitimacy down the stretch.

• Diving accusations in the wake of a Boston-Montreal game? C'est ne pas possible!

• Life without Patrice Bergeron is not going to be easy on Boston's goaltenders. The team has scored just twice since he was lost indefinitely to a "moderate" concussion.

• Another gruesome skate-cut injury last night, this time in the AHL, where Philadelphia farmhand Eric Wellwood fell awkwardly and was cut by his own blade. Scary stuff. Here's hoping for a quick recovery for the two-time Memorial Cup winner.

• Elliotte Friedman didn't help matters by tweeting this photo.
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