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Top Line: Setting up USA vs. Canada; women's gold reactions; more links

james van Riemsdyk, Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski of Team USA in Sochi Canada's challenge: Stopping James van Riemsdyk (left), Phil Kessel (center) and Joe Pavelski (8). (Icon SMI)

By Allan Muir

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

• Mike Brophy offers five points to ponder ahead of today's Olympic semifinal between Team USA and Team Canada. We'll be live blogging it. The winner gets to take on Sweden -- which edged Finland 2-1 earlier on Friday morning -- in the gold medal game on Sunday.

• Thanks to Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, this bit never gets old.

• Just like in 1980, this game means more to Team USA than any gold-medal game.

• Ken Dryden, the other man behind the mic for the Miracle on Ice, says that the American program no longer needs a miracle to stand as the world's hockey superpower.

• With a core group that goes back to the 2003 World Juniors, this edition of Team USA could go down as the greatest ever.

• Dejan Kovacevic examines the chemistry that defines Team USA's success to this point, and credits the captain for bringing the glue.

Zach Parise is looking forward to writing a happier chapter than the 2010 gold-medal game in American hockey history.

• His forwards aren't scoring, but Team Canada coach Mike Babcock has always said this tournament will come down to defense. And so far, Canada's defense is the superior beast.

• Max Rust offers an interactive look at where the players in today's game come from.

• Beyond replacing the injured John Tavares with Matt Duchene, Team Canada will stick with the same lines and defensive pairs that it used against Latvia.

• Not surprisingly, Islanders GM Garth Snow got a little heated about the loss of Tavares for the rest of the season. Also not surprising: the growing belief that Tavares' injury will be used to make the case against Olympic participation in the future.

• There will be a change for the U.S. as Paul Martin is out for today's game. He reportedly was seen wearing a cast yesterday.

• Canada needs the Sidney Crosby of men's hockey to come up as big as the Sidney Crosby of women's hockey.

• Roy MacGregor says that yesterday's women's gold-medal final may have been the strangest and most exciting ever played.

Deadspin takes great amusement at the reaction of Canadians to the win.

• The Canadians were destined to win the gold-medal game the second they channeled the Beatles.

• This is simultaneously the best reaction to Canada's gold-medal victory and the best reaction to a reaction. I will listen to this every day for the rest of my life.

• The Ontario Hockey League has made significant changes to the benefits package that it offers to players, starting with a larger monthly stipend and expanded educational opportunities. This probably has more to do with competing with the NCAA than with addressing the concerns of the aborted CHLPA. Whatever the motivation, the players are definitely better off.
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