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Top Line: Matt Cooke returns to Ottawa, Rangers' offense in high gear, more links

Matt Cooke returns to Ottawa for the first time since the Erik Karlsson incident. Person of interest: Matt Cooke is still the focus of a forensics investigation ordered by Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

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

• It hasn't skipped the attention of the Ottawa Senators that Matt Cooke will be in town tonight. Now, they say they need to focus on winning the game, but everyone knows there's money on the board.

• Maybe Cooke shouldn't be too worried. At least not as long as Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero is around to defend his good name.

John Tavares needed to address these two weaknesses before he could become an MVP candidate.

• With 18 goals in its last three games, the New York Rangers' offense is clicking at just the right time. Have to give Brad Richards most of the credit. When's he's on his game, the Blueshirts are a much more dangerous team.

• The Rangers needed two points yesterday. If they came at the expense of the hated Devils, and eliminated their rivals from playoff contention in the process, well, so much the better.

• The response from New Jersey: "Those were the Rangers? Yeah, we didn't even notice."

• The Boston Bruins got a bounce-back effort from Tuukka Rask and snapped their four-game winless skid with a 3-0 win over the Panthers. The victory moved them into first in the Northeast, but alleviated the concerns of only the most casual of fans.

• You know things are going bad for Milan Lucic when he is described as going his usual 0-0-0.

• The Bruins typically hand their sweaters over to season-ticket holders on Shirt Off Our Backs night. This year, the team had a better idea.

• Good thing the Flyers picked up Steve Mason at the deadline. He can show them the ropes on how to get the best tee times in early May and all those other things he learned playing for a non-playoff team in Columbus.

• One Flyer who has stepped up as the season's wound down is youngster Luke Schenn...which should help the Flyers feel a bit better about sending James van Riemsdyk to the playoff-bound Leafs.

• With that spot sewn up, coach Randy Carlyle has a rare choice to make in Toronto: give key players a rest or go for the best possible seed.

• Only Toronto has been away from the postseason so long that doing a Where Are They Now? feature on the members of their last playoff team makes sense.

• Calgary rookie Mark Cundari is the sort of player who revels in the jeering from opposing fans. He heard it last night as he scored in his NHL debut, helping the Flames beat the struggling Wild.

• Pretty common to see a rookie get his head shaved, but Ben Hanowski -- acquired by the Flames in the Jarome Iginla deal --  cut his for a cause.

Minnesota Wild fans suck.

• Mike Heika uses "Hotel California" as a metaphor for the Stars' inability to beat the Kings last night. It's at this point that Boon would say, "Forget it, he's rolling."

• Good teams find a way to win games which is exactly what Los Angeles has been doing during the last month. And it's pretty much what they did over the final month last season, which should be a cause for concern for their Western Conference opponents.

• The Los Angeles Times doesn't allow its writers to vote for awards, so veteran scribe Helene Elliott reveals who she would have chosen.

• A win over Edmonton clinched the Pacific for the Ducks, but this doesn't feel like a team that's skating with a playoff-level sense of urgency.

• At least Anaheim has something to play for. The only thing Edmonton has to look forward to after being officially eliminated is the draft lottery. Which, of course, they'll win.

• John MacKinnon says the Oilers must be careful about making a trade that could damage their talented young core.

• Why exactly did Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wait so long to have surgery on his shoulder?

• Both the Coyotes and Red Wings need to run the table to ensure a playoff berth. Spices up tonight's head-to-head meeting a bit, doesn't it?

Josh Gorges stepped up to defend the honor of teammate Carey Price after Montreal's latest loss. Might have been nice if he and his teammates had done a bit more of that on the ice lately.

Canucks fans about to get a look at blueline prospect Frankie Corrado. I've had more than one scout tell me the fifth-rounder was the steal of the 2011 NHL draft.

• Maybe if Kim Jung Un spent more time playing hockey instead of basketball, this never would have happened.

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