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Top Line: Capitals clinch Southeast, Isles return to playoffs, more links

The Washington Capitals celebrate clinching the Southeast Division Given up for dead a month into the season, Adam Oates' Capitals are plenty alive. (Chuck Myers/MCT via Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

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

• Congrats to the Capitals, who won a thriller over the Jets to clinch the Southeast title for the fifth time in six seasons.

• While the rest of the league was content to write Washington off early on, coach Adam Oates never stopped believing in the team. He still looks like a dark horse for the Adams, but he fully deserves to be in the mix.

• The Jets aren't quite good enough yet, but the future looks bright in Winnipeg.

• So they backed in. Big deal. The Islanders are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007!

• Two players who shouldn't expect a postseason call-up to Long Island: Rick DiPietro and Nino Niederreiter.

• This season hasn't provided Buffalo with much to brag about, but at least the Sabres can say they snapped a pair of lengthy Penguins winning streaks in Pittsburgh.

• The Pens could have Paul Martin and James Neal back in the lineup before the regular season ends. But Sidney Crosby...?

• It's not just the loss to the Panthers or the failure to clinch a playoff spot that haunts the Rangers. It's that they continue to lose the special teams battle on a nightly basis. They were brutal on the power play again last night, particularly on a late chance with the game on the line.

• The Maple Leafs aren't listening to the stat geeks who say they are one of the four worst teams to make the playoffs in the last 20 years. But even coach Randy Carlyle admits they have a few corrections to make in terms of their glaring shot differential.

• The Red Wings need more from Valtteri Filppula. Teemu Selanne knows what's missing for the underperforming forward.

• If not from Filppula, the Wings could get a boost from the return of Todd Bertuzzi for tonight's critical contest against the Kings.

• The Flyers honored the city of Boston, then dishonored the Bruins. Though honestly, it was the Bruins who embarrassed themselves. That might have been Zdeno Chara's worst game ever as a Bruin.

Jaromir Jagr's return to Philadelphia sparked a discussion on NHL economics. Is there anything No. 68 can't do?

• Boston's blueline could sport radically different looks depending on who the B's face in the playoffs. That's swell, but unless they've got Bobby Orr, Brad Park, Ray Bourque and Eddie Shore in cold storage, it may not matter how they rearrange these deck chairs.

• Fortunately for the Bruins, their rivals for top spot in the Northeast suffered their fifth loss in six games last night. Of course, Montreal coach Michel Therrien remains optimistic about his team's chances.

• Here's a nice bit of stat work from Scott Cruickshank. On opening night, the Flames dressed 12 forwards with nearly 6,000 games of NHL experience. In last night's win over the Preds, it was just 982, with half of that belonging to Jiri Hudler. Interesting, then, how it all played out.

• I'm right there with Patrick Reusse. Jonas Brodin gets all the love, but Charlie Coyle's future is just as bright in Minnesota. He's the one Wild player who has consistently stood out every time I've watched them.

• Two goals in the final six minutes helped the Sharks clinch their ninth straight trip to the postseason. That was a resilient performance from a team that looked like a playoff pushover just a couple of weeks back.

• The playoff dream died the way it always does in Dallas. Hard. Few teams will break a fan's heart the way that one does.

• The one truly bright spot of the Stars' season has been the development of their young prospects under AHL coach of the year Willie Desjardins. At least four current Stars are headed back to Cedar Park for the playoff experience.

• Martin Broduer says he still has the desire to compete next season.

• They're talking possible draft picks in Edmonton.

• The Canadian women's team lost another decorated vet to retirement Tuesday. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Cherie Piper became the third player in less than a week to hang up her skates.

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