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Tuesday August 13th, 2013

Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins Milan Lucic had an awful 2013 regular season, but redeemed himself in the playoffs. (Charles Krupa/AP)

By Allan Muir

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

• Patrick King offers a list of 10 Eastern Conference players who must step it up this season, including Milan Lucic, Marian Gaborik and Carey Price. The most intriguing to me might be Carolina's Jeff Skinner, whose new contract kicks in this year. Does he really have more to give, or have injuries taken such a toll that we've already seen his best?

• Mike Heika has spent the past few days profiling players on the Dallas Stars, but today he gets around to the one who hockey fans in Texas can't wait to see for themselves: Tyler Seguin. Unique talent and opportunity offer the potential for a great season, Helka says, and it's tough not to agree.

• Luke Fox writes that vacation time is over for Steve Mason and Philly's new goalie is ready to get back to work. It's time to prove that his hot finish wasn't just a streak, but evidence that he's ready and able to carry the load for this team.

• The St. Louis Blues get the 30-in-30 treatment today on NHL.com. GM Doug Armstrong offers some insight into the team's changing culture and what that means for the top prospects.

• While you're at NHL.com, check out John Kreiser's piece on the league's top players in the over-35 division.

• A low-dough trip to Boston suggests that playoff hero Gregory Campbell will be ready for the start of camp with the Bruins. Can you imagine the reception this guy will get when he's introduced on opening night at the TD Garden?

• The Bruins underwent some significant renovation for a team that lost out in the Stanley Cup Final, but the changes are being well received by the holdovers.

• The hockey world was dealt a couple of tough blows during the past two days. First, former Phoenix Coyotes beat reporter Jim Gintonio passed away from lung cancer on Sunday. He was one of those truly nice people who brought out the best in others. He'll be missed.

• And then there was the tragic passing of 16-year-old junior prospect Jordan Boyd on Monday. Our condolences to both families.

• Bruce Garrioch considers how the new-look sides in both Ottawa and Toronto will be one of hockey's top rivalries: the Battle of Ontario. As long as the laundry stays the same, it doesn't matter who wears it. These teams will always bring out the worst in each other.

• On-ice success seems to have done wonders for the off-ice work ethic of Nazem Kadri. Coming off his finest season, he's putting in the time to ensure that he steps forward, not back, in 2013-14 ... assuming the RFA gets a deal done with the Maple Leafs, that is.

• Negotiations are at a standstill between the Vancouver Canucks and RFA defender Chris Tanev, so reports that teams in Switzerland and Russia are interested in his services can't be taken lightly. Sure, it could just be a ploy by his agent to kickstart talks, but the youngster has the skills to be an impact player overseas. If the two sides can't break this gridlock, don't be surprised to see Tanev renew his passport.

Four former Oilers are still looking for jobs, and David Staples has the latest on their options for next season. I can see someone taking a flyer on highly-skilled winger Linus Omark, who needs a better situation more than anything to bring out the best in his game, but the rest are the sort of players whose obvious flaws mean there won't be many knocks on the door.

• Could the Nashville Predators use some of their nearly $5 million in cap space on one of the free-agent forwards still on the market? They could still use a boost of skill up front, but after already adding four forwards this summer, I'd be surprised if they went this route.

• The current state of Japanese hockey might not be a pressing concern for most of us, but the IIHF website has an interesting piece on where the country is now in terms of player registration (top-10 in the world -- shocking, right?) and development.

• Grantland corrals some fan thoughts on how to improve the NHL. Most of it is the usual half-considered stuff you hear all the time, but there are a few beauties in there including one that mimics the first thing I'd do if I was put in charge: allowing teams to configure the dimensions of their rink to maximize the impact of a preferred style of play.

Here's a pretty cool scene captured in Slovakia and shared by Phil Pritchard. You know it would have been exactly the same if the other guy had won. • And here's Jordin Tootoo, keepin' it real.

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