Report: Penguins to host Capitals for 2011 Winter Classic

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Dave Molinari
of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
is reporting today that the NHL is
leaning towards the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins
facing off in the 2011 Winter Classic, to be played at Heinz Field.
There has been no confirmation on this news from the Penguins or
Capitals, and I’ve been told by NHL sources that no announcement is
expected anytime soon. So right now this is just pure speculation, based
solely on Molinari’s report.

There was always a good possibility that Alex Ovechkin and the
Capitals would be involved in the Classic next season — presumably at
home — but another nationally televised matchup between the Penguins
and Capitals in the biggest regular season game for the NHL makes sense,
as far as marketing the NHL’s two biggest teams go. But what about the
rest of the NHL?

Nate Ewell, director of media relations for the
Capitals, had this to say on Twitter
about the report when asked about the Caps playing the Penguins:

Was sad when reports weren’t true about Caps in
2010 Winter Classic. Can’t say the same personally if these 2011 reports
prove false.

I can’t justify them
playing in another one when
24 teams haven’t had the chance

The
issue is over the Penguins hosting the Winter Classic, when they’ve
already appeared in one. The goal by the NHL was to spread the Classic
around the league– supposedly– so it’s understandable when there is some resistance
to the Penguins getting another one so soon.

There are some logistical problems that would need to be addressed, however, before an official
announcement is even made. For one, the Penguins are opening a new arena
this season; hosting the Winter Classic would take away a valuable home
game at the new venue. There’s also the small issue of playing the game
at the home field of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Says
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio:

Though Molinari
says that “approximately two weeks” will be needed to
build and prep an outdoor rink, Molinari also says that the Steelers are
expected to host their home finale on Thursday, December 23, which
would give the crew less than nine days to cover the turf with a
platform coated in ice.  The possibility that the Steelers will host a
playoff game in the wild-card round would give the powers-that-be at
least a week to restore the venue to its football configuration.

The
issue of playing at Heinz Field is most likely the biggest stumbling
block, not the whole “but the Pens already played in a Winter Classic”
argument.

As of now, this is just a report that has sparked debate
across the hockey-verse on a quiet Sunday. But still, one more piece to
the intense rivalry built between the Capitals and Penguins franchises.

Devils unveil ‘The Salute’ statue in honor of Martin Brodeur

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The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.

“Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.

“That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”

More on the statue from the Devils:

The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

Video: Panthers furious after Abdelkader ‘cheap shot’ hit on Barkov

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The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.

Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.

The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.

Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.

“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”

“You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.

“We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”

The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.

Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues

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In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.

After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.

The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.

— He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.

— From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.

— Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.

He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.

The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.

The Islanders also have a game in hand.

Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings

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The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.

Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.

In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.