By Allan Muir
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• He's not exactly letting the cat out of the bag here, but Team USA GM David Poile strongly implied that one New York Ranger was a lock for Sochi, and two others are in the running for spots.
• The goals aren't flowing yet for New York's reunited top line, but the chances are coming for Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan. The trio has turned in three consecutive strong performances since the return of Nash from IR, giving the Blueshirts hope that their offense might soon get out of first gear.
• A pair of losses has done more than end an 8-1-1 hot streak in Phoenix. It revealed a long-festering problem that threatens to undermine their bid for a playoff spot in the tough Pacific race.
• The nightmare season continues for Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Beau Bennett. The rookie winger, who has already missed 11 games, is out again indefinitely after suffering an undisclosed injury this weekend.
• To the surprise of virtually everyone outside of Florida, Peter Horachek has found a way to make a difference behind the bench of the Panthers. No one needs to look into blocking off potential playoff dates at the BB&T Center, but the Cats are making progress after eight games of the new coach's guidance.
• Looking to spark an underperforming offense last week, Montreal coach Michel Therrien shuffled his lines and adjusted responsibilities. Three games later, he's looking like a genius. Of course, it helps to have a master-key like Brendan Gallagher to unlock the secret to every problem.
• Maybe the Canucks wouldn't be so worried if they'd just accept that their season already is doomed. At least, that's what history suggests.
• Now this is an active stick:
• Jared Cowendodged a Shanaban for his elbow to the head of Pavel Datsyuk. Detroit's fans won't be happy, but it was probably the right call. Should have been a penalty, no doubt, but Datsyuk changed the dynamic of the contact with his own movement, taking just enough of the onus off Cowen to help him dodge the bullet.
• "Sochi? Is that this season?" said a couple of Penguins, unconvincingly.
• The Sabres are taking baby steps under the tutelage of Ted Nolan, but it takes a long time to walk a mile at that pace.