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Top Line: Tim Thomas hot in Panthers debut; Ovechkin's torch run; more links

Goaltender Tim Thomas makes his NHL debut with Florida Panthers.Tim Thomas started and left with a 2-1 lead, but Florida lost in 3-2 in OT. (Steve Nesius/AP Photos)

By Allan Muir

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

• It's hardly news that the Panthers lost last night. But add freshly-signed goaltender Tim Thomas to the mix and you have the evening's top story. He stopped nine of 10 shots while playing half the game, setting himself up nicely for what could be a 60-minute effort on Saturday.

• With new owner Vinnie Viola expected to be introduced today, the climate is about to change for hockey in south Florida.

• The Capitals understand that Alex Ovechkin will be a little jet-lagged for the season opener, but they couldn't deny him the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be the first torchbearer in the Olympic flame relay next week. Big picture, this was the right call for the team and for the promotion of the game, which, after all, is what the league's involvement in the Olympics is all about.

• A couple of unexpected names made the cut as the Blackhawks finally saw their names etched on the Stanley Cup yesterday.

• Newly-signed Rangers center Derek Stepan says he's not far off from being game ready despite missing more than two weeks of training camp while embroiled in a contract dispute. What do you say we remind him of this assessment when he's sucking wind during next Thursday's season opener?

• Who will emerge as the breakout star as HBO's cameras begin filming in Detroit for this season's Red Wings / Maple Leafs: Road to the Winter Classic? Would you believe . . . Pavel Datsyuk?

• Apparently, there are folks who aspire to dress like Patrice Bergeron and Gregory Campbell.. No word if this year's hottest fashion accessory is a leg cast or a shoulder harness.

• Like a lot of folks around hockey, Marc-Edouard Vlasic has expressed concern over the consistency of sentencing practiced by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. To his credit, Shanny was happy to respond. Doesn't mean his answer was good, but he didn't duck the criticism. That counts for something.

• NBCSN is proving its love for hockey with two new stick-and-puck-themed shows this season. One sounds interesting. The other idea is about as fresh as an "NCIS" spinoff.

• Will Dustin Brown's hamstring be good to go for the season opener next week? And will he really name his newborn baby daughter Roger?

• The Carolina Hurricanes added Jeff Skinner to an injured list that already includes Tim Gleason, Alex Semin, Tuomo Ruutu and Elias Lindholm. Probably not going to get that hot start they were looking for, are they?

• Dylan Larkin was one of the standouts when the top American-born prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft got together for a spirited showcase event yesterday in Pittsburgh.

• So, the guys at EA Sports played out a simulation of the 2013-14 season on NHL '14 and determined that the St. Louis Blues will win the Stanley Cup. That was part of an actual job that people got up in the morning to do.

• The Blues better not blow it with that second rounder they picked up from the Oilers because Magnus Paajarvi, they key piece acquired in the David Perron deal, has been a bust in camp. The former first-round pick is continuing the maddening play that led Edmonton to dump him. He's big, fast and has great hands, but he settles for what the game gives him, rather than going out there and asserting himself into the play.

• Don't get too comfortable with this version of the Maple Leafs roster, writes Chris Johnston. With five key players needing new deals next summer, GM Dave Nonis might have to blow this thing up.

• The league promised the ice won't melt when the Kings take on the Ducks outdoors on Jan. 25. That's good, but not as good as Dustin Penner's suggestion that the players skate in tank tops while bikini-clad fans sit rinkside.

• Denis Brodeur, the father of Martin and one of hockey's greatest photographers, passed away yesterday. Here's a look at some of his most memorable work.

• Lousy news for opponents of the Lightning: Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis are about to get more ice time.

• The Oilers close out their preseason schedule tonight with a tilt against the Stars in Oklahoma City. Taylor Hall talks about the time he spent there during last season's lockout, and while he might be trying to say nice things, he doesn't do a very good job of it.

• Buffalo may suck this year, but according to owner Terry Pegula, "the guys in the locker room are pretty upbeat." So you got that going for you, Sabres fans.

• This play starts with a pretty crappy pass from Ryan Spooner, which makes Loui Eriksson's OT winner all the more amazing.

Valeri Nichushkin has faded into the wallpaper over the last week or so, but the goal he scored last night against Colorado was a glorious reminder of what he could bring to the Stars this season. It'll be interesting to see how the team plays this hand. There's a growing sense that he's not ready for the 82-game grind, so they might have to lighten his workload if they intend to keep him in the NHL.

• It's no longer a question of whether Mark Schiefele or Jacob Trouba will be in the opening night lineup for the Winnipeg Jets. The question now is, will they be any good?

• Not every professional tryout works out as well as it did for Tim Thomas. The Coyotes released Gilbert Brule yesterday, a move that likely ends any hope he had of making an NHL comeback. Here's hoping the courageous forward finds another opportunity quickly, whether it's in or out of hockey.

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