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Top Line: Varlamov charges dropped; Ovechkin scores No. 400; more links

(Karl Gehring/Denver Post via Getty Images) Varlamov was charged for allegedly attacking his girlfriend, Evgeniya Vivranyuk. (Karl Gehring/Denver Post via Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

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

• Prosecutors in Denver dropped assault charges against Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov on Friday, saying they believed the story of Evgeniya Vivranyuk, but didn't believe they had enough evidence to secure a conviction.

• Adrian Dater says Varlamov never seemed to let the charges affect him, but "it helps to know you're innocent." We should get some reaction from Varlamov himself later today.

• It won't go down as one of the prettiest or most dramatic goals of his career, but the empty netter that sealed Washington's 4-2 win over Carolina was still a big one for Alex Ovechkin. That last-minute tally counted as his 400th in the NHL, a milestone just five players have reached faster. Amazing.

Brooks Orpik says mistakes he's made in the past helped him forgive Shawn Thornton in the wake of being assaulted by the Boston enforcer.

• Chris Johnston offers a couple of compelling takes on why the West is so much better than the East this season.

• Ask any player and they'll tell you there's nothing like scoring your first NHL goal. But what if it turns out to be your only NHL goal? Robert McLeod tracked down six of the league's 460 or so one-goal-wonders and captured their stories. An absolute must-read.

• It won't solve the debate, but Paul Brownfield offers us a look at how the environments of Canadian junior and American college hockey compare as routes to NHL success.

• If you're someone who enjoyed seeing the Blackhawks embarrass themselves in Toronto last Saturday night, you'll be thrilled by the new levels of humiliation they experience in their holiday Christmas video. It's an epic failure on nearly every level, but if you can suffer through it long enough, you'll probably get a laugh out of Jonathan Toews as Wolverine.

• The Rangers brought a bit more funny to the unveiling of their Stadium Series jersey. I'd give the sweater a solid B, but the video gets an A, thanks to the special guest star.

• Heading into his third week of inactivity, Shane Doan finally knows what's wrong with him. The Coyotes' captain is suffering from a form of Rocky Mountain Fever. Read all about what that is, and the prognosis for his return, here.

• Has Matt Duchene sealed a spot on Team Canada with his latest five-game stretch? Mike Chambers thinks so. So do I.

• This video needs to be longer. And there needs to be a lot more like it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJL_zTYc6Ug

• Boston forward Ryan Spooner is not doing himself any favors by keeping his game safe and simple. Joe Haggerty says it's time for the talented rookie to show the B's exactly what he's got.

• Mark Spector offers up some helpful Christmas advice to players, coaches, writers and, especially, the ever-aggrieved advocates of fancystats.

• Tough break for the Sharks: rookie sensation Tomas Hertl could miss a month of play as a result of a Dustin Brown hit on Thursday night.

• NFL folks are calling for an NHL-style war room to review controversial plays, so naturally Kerry Fraser would like to see an NFL-style video review set up to give NHL refs the chance to make the final call on controversial goals. Yes, by all means, let's change something that works, Kerry.

• The Blue Jackets are one of the youngest teams in the league, but they're also on the verge of going two straight years without a captain. Michael Arace says the organization is making the right call by waiting for one to emerge.

• The Preds issued a health update for goaltender Pekka Rinne. Sadly, he doesn't seem to be progressing as well as expected.

• Luke Fox has an in-depth look at the futuristic equipment that will be worn by six Olympians in Sochi. "Something even more expensive to buy? That's really great news!" say the parents of every hockey-playing kid in North America.

• Meanwhile, Krys Barch called out the league and equipment provider Reebok to provide safer socks after seeing teammate Eric Gudbranson cut by a skate the other night. Maybe safety should be a priority over making things lighter, eh fellas? And while we're on it, how about making elbow and shoulder pads that simply protect the wearer, rather than serve as concussion-causing armor? Guess protection will never be as sexy, or as marketable, as speed.

• Kevin Dineen got a good look at why Team Canada is in trouble with just weeks to go before Sochi. Making his debut behind the bench, he saw Team USA whip the defending gold medalists for the second game in a row. Couldn't have liked much about the effort...except, maybe, the line brawl.
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