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Top Line: Joe Pavelski's star rises in Sochi; Team Canada tweaks; more links

Joe Pavelski of Team USA at Sochi Center Joe Pavelski has been the catalyst on Team USA's most productive line in Sochi. (David E. Klutho/SI)

By Allan Muir

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

• While some of the expected leaders for Team USA have struggled in Sochi, Joe Pavelski has established himself as America's brightest star.

• NHL.com's writers, on the other hand, have Team USA's Phil Kessel as the Olympic MVP at the midway point. Apparently, they really like a guy who comes up big against the minnows of the tournament.

• Coach Dan Bylsma is changing up a couple of his lines in an effort to get Zach Parise and Patrick Kane going in Wendesday's game against the Czech Republic.

• Yes, Kane really did say that Kessel is the best guy he's ever played with.

• "They're not going to have an easy day, that's for sure," said Latvia's Zemgus Girgensons ahead of today's quarterfinal match with Canada. "It's nothing to lose for us."

• Team Canada hoped to have its lines settled by the quarterfinal game, but the match against Latvia allows coach Mike Babcock one more chance to tinker.

P.K. Subban is taking his benching in Wednesday's game in stride. I'm not sure the rest of Canada will be so gracious if the power play continues to struggle.

• Neither Sidney Crosby nor Evgeni Malkin have been all that special in Sochi. Dejan Kovacevic says that it is time for both to rise above the excuses and perform like the world-class players they are. Of course, Malkin will no longer have the chance.

• While you were (hopefully) sleeping, Sweden knocked off Slovenia, as expected, to advance to Friday's semi-final.

Zdeno Chara laments Slovakia's disappointing performance at what likely was his last Olympics.

• Chara may have left Sochi without a medal, but not without a YouTube clip proving that he shoots the puck really, really hard:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qDe3i-Afwg

• Will the hand injury that kept Mats Zuccarello from playing in Norway's 4-0 loss to Russia prevent him from returning to action when the NHL season resumes? As the Rangers' leading scorer, he'd be sorely missed.

• Team USA's David Backes is spending his down time in Sochi working to find homes for some of the city's stray dogs.

• Gary Bettman says that there's a possibility that we'll soon see the return of hockey's World Cup. I'd say you can upgrade that possibility to "extremely likely" given the money to be made from a tournament that is jointly owned/operated by the league and the NHLPA.

• It might be buried on Wednesday's list by tales from Sochi, but this brief memoir by 2010 Sabres draft pick Gregg Sutch detailing the evolution, and ultimate end, of his hockey career is today's must-read piece.

• Buffalo has terminated the contract of forward Linus Omark, freeing him to return to Europe. It's probably just as well for both parties. Omark has a world of talent, but no stomach for the two-way game it takes to stick in the NHL.

• Could the Blue Jackets get an important player back in the lineup when they return to practice on Wednesday?

• Robert Tychkowski is looking for seven signs down the stretch to indicate that the Oilers are on the path to success.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk offers some hot sports opinions on Olympic participation, the rising salary cap, the NHL trade deadline and his team's playoff chances. Some of his views are sunnier than others.

• Is Mark Schiefele the answer at second-line center? Can Toby Enstrom stay healthy? These are just some of the burning questions that abound for the Jets as they try to build on their pre-Olympic success.

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