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Top Line: Crosby awaits clearance, Kings set to defend Cup, more links

Sidney Crosby has been practicing with the PenguinsSidney Crosby says he's been getting used to the face shield he'll need to wear when he returns. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

By Allan Muir

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

• Sidney Crosby is waiting to hear from doctors if he will be cleared to play in Game 1 of the playoffs. With all that's on the line, I'm surprised that NBC hasn't suggested he see Dr. Leo Spacemen. If he wants clearance that bad, all Sid has to do is dance for it.

Marc-Andre Fleury recognizes that he is the question mark for the Cup-or-bust Penguins. He thinks his new role as a father will help him get through any rough spots. Ah, new fathers. Is there anything they won't tell themselves in their sleep-deprived delirium?

• The Red Wings are riding a wave of momentum that could lead to a first-round upset of the Ducks.

• Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau won't tip his hand and reveal who is starting in goal for the Ducks, but he is willing to accept the underdog role against the seventh-seeded Wings. Apparently every team is the underdog this spring.

• Despite the familiar cast of characters, there's a very different feel to this year's Blues-Kings rematch. Yeah, that's called "the pressure to repeat."

• St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott can't wait for the chance to rewrite the script after last year's crushing loss to the Kings.

• Dave Stubbs goes back nearly a century to look at the playoff history of the Canadiens and Senators. This one's a must-read if only for the great line about what once passed for social media.

• Roy MacGregor says the Senators have been survivors all season long. They'll put those battle-honed skills to the test as they take on the Canadiens.

• If you've won just four of the last 27 meetings against your opponent, you're probably going into a series as the clear underdog. The Maple Leafs are ready to accept that role against the Bruins.

• Listen to Boston GM Peter Chiarelli though, and he'll tell you this series doesn't look so lopsided to his eyes. Or mine, for that matter.

• Despite all the subterfuge, it looks like Cory Schneider will be ready to start in goal for the Canucks in their series opener against the Sharks.

• It may seem trite to select Pittsburgh and Chicago to meet in the Cup final, but Eric Duhatschek reminds us that occasionally the cream does rise to the top in sports. Anything can happen -- it's why they play the games, right? -- but it is tough to imagine either of these teams being felled along the way.

• Apparently Jonathan Toews is loosening up with age (there is an unverified report of him laughing in this story), but Captain Serious hasn't changed his approach to the game.

• Yeah, the Wild put themselves in a lousy spot with their bumbling April performance, but that doesn't mean they're content to let the Blackhawk bulldoze them.

• The Islanders take a look back to identify the moments where their season finally came together. This bunch seems awfully loose ahead of their meeting with the Penguins. With John Tavares leading them, they're going to be a fun team to watch.

• Actor/writer/Habs fan Jay Baruchel was given a chance to spend a day with the Cup. Here's what happened.

• Alexander Ovechkin has a message for the New York Rangers. It's not, "Your wife called and she wants you to pick up some milk on the way home."

• Chris Stevenson has the top 10 storylines of the NHL playoffs. Really? This Kessel thing hasn't blown over yet?

• If you thought things were already bad, Sabres fans, GM Darcy Regier wants you to know they're going to get worse. At least you'll have the privilege of paying more to watch that happen, right?

• The arrival of Jim Nill suggests a culture change is coming to Dallas. Which is fine, as long as that culture change brings three NHL-ready defensemen with it.

• They're pretty excited in Colorado about winning the NHL draft lottery last night.

• After the death of his father, Doug Gilmour's long battle against Alzheimer's has taken on a personal dimension.

• Rihanna plays Montreal's Bell Centre tomorrow night. Someone please get her a Habs' jersey. We don't want this to end badly.
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