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Top Line: 'Hawks, Kings set for Game 7; Patrick Kane a lightning rod; more links

The Western Conference finals have been an epic confrontation between the Kings and Blackhawks (Robin Alam/Icon SMI) The Western Conference finals have been an epic confrontation between the Kings and Blackhawks (Robin Alam/Icon SMI)

By Allan Muir

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

• When this clash of titans between the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings is finally over, the Western Conference will have named its most worthy champion in a long, long time. All we're going to talk about after this one is how it should have been a best-of-17, not seven.

• Having dropped two in a row the Kings aren't exactly in an ideal situation, but they're confident they can close out the series tonight.

• Should they feel that way? Does Los Angeles have anything left in the tank to finish off the champs?

• Eric Duhatschek writes that Patrick Kane is a crazy lightning rod of a player, liked by some, loathed by others, but unquestionably and uncannily that rare sort that always seems capable of rising to the occasion.

• There's nothing more disingenuous than players and coaches who say they're not nervous about Game 7.

• The Hawks believe they have one clear advantage heading into tonight's series finale.

• The biggest problem facing the Rangers might not be the Western Conference champions, but figuring out how to keep the team together this summer. The price of success is always high, but the fact that New York relies so heavily on depth players will make it tough to honor their contributions while keeping the team under the cap.

• It wasn't that long ago that Columbus fans looked to former Jackets to provide a rooting interest in the playoffs. Now? It just hurts to realize how close they were to being the New York Rangers. This is a great take from Michael Arace.

• Oh, baby! Tonight's game might not be the end for legendary broadcaster Bob Cole. Judging by my mail that won't be regarded as good news by many of you out there, but his work during these playoffs illustrates his still uncanny knack for letting a game speak for itself. I'll be thrilled to see him back in the booth.

• Here's a beauty for New York's fans and bandwagon jumpers alike: the 10 unforgettable moments that defined the Rangers season.

• Larry Brooks says buyers better beware before giving terms or dollars to playoff flop Thomas Vanek. But he also acknowledges the inevitable massive payday in his weekly Sunday notes column.

• Former Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson left some interesting instructions for his eventual successor on his last day in office.

Will Carey Price require surgery for the injury that kept him out of most of the Eastern Conference Final? Read on, MacDuff ...

• With shovels actually in the ground, a new arena project has Las Vegas back in the news as a possible NHL expansion site.

• With the captain on the way out and another veteran possibly headed to free agency, the leadership group of the Montreal Canadiens could have a completely different look next season.

• I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that Sam Bennett's embarrassing showing at the Scouting Combine won't hurt him at the draft, but he'll never hear the end of it.

• Barry Trotz knows his tenure with the Washington Capitals will be defined by his ability to get Alex Ovechkin to play well with others. Veteran scribe Jim Matheson says he might want to hit up Scotty Bowman for tips on how it is done.

• Bill Hoppe considers the potential of Bennett, Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart as possible picks with Buffalo's second-overall selection.

• New Dallas Stars director of amateur scouting Joe McDonell calls this year's draft the toughest of his career to gauge. This is one of those classes that'll show what scouts are really made of.

• The Vancouver Canucks have eyes for a couple of local prospects at this year's draft.

• Here's Fluto Shinzawa's Sunday notes column. That's all you need to know.

• Ed Willes wonders when the hockey gods will stop making the Canucks their own personal punch line.

• Sure, hockey is a contact sport...but does it have to be a contact sport so soon?

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