Top Line: Steven Stamkos on target for Sochi; Seattle expansion; more links
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• Darren Dreger says that Steven Stamkos' recovery from his broken leg is ahead of schedule, and that the Lightning sniper is targeting a Feb. 6 game against the Maple Leafs for his return to action. Stamkos' elite conditioning makes an inexact science of projecting where he'll be physically two months from now, but it's a safe bet that he will be named to Team Canada on Jan. 7, and it's even money that he'll be ready to go in Sochi.
• A Seattle TV station has the latest on the city's arena plans, as well as information about the prospects for an NHL expansion team. It sounds like there's a very vocal former NHL star who could be involved in the process.
• Friends of Gino Odjick were "walking on eggshells" in the days leading up to Pavel Bure's jersey retirement last month, fearing that the former enforcer's deteriorating mental condition might affect his ability to take part in the ceremony. The heartbreaking story of Odjick's admission to a Quebec mental hospital broke yesterday.
• The Oilers don't yet have an accurate read on the condition of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who was injured on Sunday in a collision with the Stars' Ryan Garbutt. Bryzgalov's concussion-like symptoms suggest that he could be out until Thursday ... or maybe Christmas.
• No firm word, either, on the condition of Sergei Bobrovsky after the Blue Jackets' goalie was injured in last night's win over Tampa Bay. Wait a minute ... two goalies are mysteriously hurt ... another is facing legal trouble ... maybe the Russian Olympic conspiracy theorists are on to something!
• Lots of good stuff, as usual, in Elliotte Friedman's 30 Thoughts column, including his takes on the impending salary cap increase, Corey Crawford's glove hand, and the Flames' handling of prospect Sven Baertschi.
• The new high-scoring identity of the Coyotes is still catching some teams by surprise.
• "Whose jockstrap is in the corner, that's what I want to know."
• With Phoenix's ownership situation now under control, the NHL finally did the right thing by former coach Wayne Gretzky. This is good news for the Great One, and great news for the game since, one assumes, a happy Gretzky will be a more prominent face for the league in the future.
• You say you want to make licensed apparel bearing the Hockey Canada logo? You're gonna have to do it the right way.
• Already playing without Pavel Datsyuk, the Red Wings learned on Tuesday that they'll be without another superstar for the next two weeks. It's bad news, to be sure, but it's also a big chance for impressive youngsters Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar to step up their games.
• The Bruins' Shawn Thornton says he loves Boston's rivalry with the Canadiens, and that there are no idiots playing for Montreal, just honest guys doing their jobs. Should be another beauty between the B's and Habs on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
• Edmonton announced the sale of naming rights to the team's future downtown home on Tuesday. And it's certain not to cause any confusion. Nope, none at all.
• Columbus first-rounder Kerby Rychel is living out a Diet Coke commercial after being traded by his dad on Tuesday night. Former NHL winger Warren Rychel, now GM of the OHL's Windsor Spitfires, dealt his son and Nick Ebert (a draft pick of the Kings) to Memorial Cup-contending Guelph in a blockbuster deal for forward Brody Milne and eight draft picks, including five second-rounders. At first blush, it's exactly the deal both teams needed.
• I don't care how many guys are doing this move these days. It's still awesome every time I see it:
• Scouts say Team Canada hopeful Sam Reinhart -- the potential No. 1 pick in 2014 -- is ready for the NHL now. He's definitely going to be the player that scouts pay the most attention to at the World Juniors in Malmo.
• If there's no paint drying nearby, you can always watch live as the NHL transforms the Big House in Ann Arbor into the Big Ice House.
• Maybe Florida needs to hire the PR genius behind this KHL ticket-selling promotion.
• And, finally, video proof that Sidney Crosby is good at hockey: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6fr9bfWI0w