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Top Line: Avs gambling on Varlamov; Ovechkin struggles; more links

Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche With his fat new deal, the spotlight on Semyon Varlamov in Colorado just got brighter. (Barry Gutierrez/AP)

By Allan Muir

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

• The Avalanche hitched their wagon to Semyon Varlamov on Thursday night, signing the goaltender to a five-year extension worth an average of $5.9 million per year. He's been dynamite this season, but his thin postseason track record makes me leery -- this deal might be too much, too soon for a still unproven player.

• After watching another truly sorry performance by the Capitals on Thursday night, Adam Proteau says that there's no reason for continued patience with this roster.

Alex Ovechkin was a brutal minus-5 in the game, a 5-2 loss to the Blue Jackets. Could be that he's feeling the weight of a nation starting to bear down on his shoulders.

• But hey, no pressure on Washington. After all, the Capitals play in a division in which the general managers appear to have no accountability for their teams' performances.

Ryan Johansen is just gross:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Pd0zTMGi1A

• Team USA will announce its captain today, and Rob Rossi likes Dustin Brown's chances.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk says that his team has stockpiled many prospects who could be playing in the NHL with another organization right now. Hey, there are only so many jobs available on an eighth-place team ...

• This one is worth reading if only to understand why "Jaromir Jagr" and "hot tub antics" appear in the same headline.

Martin Brodeur says that he's open to the possibility that he could be traded, but he may not like what he finds outside of the Devils' nurturing biosphere.

• The Penguins are pushing one of their own for Calder Trophy consideration.

• Still can't believe that Ben Scrivens made 59 stops on Wednesday night? Wondering how many toughies he had to make? Judge for yourself. Here's each and every one of 'em:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LxbPv5bR2fE

• The Sabres are "crossing their fingers" and hoping that an injury suffered by Matt Moulson late in Thursday's win over the Coyotes is nothing serious. With the trade deadline fast approaching, a stint on the IR for Moulson would be a disaster for Buffalo.

• Sometimes, a change of scenery is exactly what a player needs.

• A pair of long-time training partners found themselves on opposite sides of the NHL's fiercest rivalry ... with a father in the middle.

• The fancy stats have spoken, and they say Michel Therrien must go.

• The mob at Therrien's door might be a little more subdued after the Canadiens' big win over the Bruins last night.

• Is Tuukka Rask playing his way out of the starting job for Team Finland? He was pulled from last night's loss, the fourth time in his last 16 games that he's earned an early shower.

• Here are the late updates out of Tampa after Ben Bishop took a skate to the back of the head early in last night's loss to Ottawa.

• The Canucks are without their head coach, captain and two key defensemen as they head east for a five-game road trip that could define their season.

• Accountability seems to be the theme of the day. Oilers owner Daryl Katz spoke of it last week, but doesn't actually seem to be applying it within his organization. Jonathan Willis shines a spotlight on three members of the old guard whose time should be up.

• Adrian Dater has been saying for ages that Denver is a natural for an outdoor game. Seems like someone important finally agrees.
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