Breaking the ice: Lemieux, Crosby become first people to skate at Consol Energy Center

For years, the Pittsburgh Penguins enjoyed the increasingly rare advantage of playing at home in an old arena. Rather than playing in a sterile*, impersonal new megadome the team played in crusty old Mellon Arena. As you may know, starting next season, that will change as the Penguins open the arena that Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin built: the Consol Energy Center.

* – Of course, judging from recent health code reports about the Verizon Center and other crummy concession stand situations, “sterile” isn’t such a bad description.

The team had video and a story about Lemieux and Crosby being the first two people to ever skate at the soon-to-be-opened palace. Before I get into some of the details from the story, check out the footage.

Two of the more hockey-relevant details regard the pros and cons of having a new building versus an old one.

One of the common issues with having an old barn is that there are some “bad seats” in the house while new arenas typically are designed to shoot down that problem. Lemieux raved about the sight lines in that article.

On the other hand, old arenas are known for having more charm than their fancier, newer counterparts. Both Lemieux and Crosby said that the seats are pretty close to the ice, though.

“We felt that the seats were pretty close to the ice and that should be great for the atmosphere of the building,” Lemieux said. “We thought that it was going to be great for the fans being so close to the ice. And we also talked about how beautiful the building looked.”

Besides how beautiful the arena looked from ice level, and much like Lemieux, Crosby was also blown away by how close the fans are going to be to the action.

“On the ice I just liked looking around at the building,” Crosby said. “It is first class all the way. When you are out there the stands and the suites seem like they are really close to the ice. That intimacy is something that we had at the Mellon, and I think we brought it here.”

For nostalgic fans, it’s always sad to see an old arena go. Even if the seats are cramped, the bathrooms are decrepit and the place is falling apart. Yet, if Crosby and Lemieux are correct, the Consol Energy Center might provide the best of both worlds – the bells and whistles of a profitable new arena plus the intimacy of an older design. We’ll wait and see, because chances are, they’ll get to test drive it in the playoffs soon enough.

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    Oilers recall D-man Oesterle from AHL Condors

    EDMONTON, AB - FEBRUARY 23:  Jordan Oesterle #82 of the Edmonton Oilers warms up against the Ottawa Senators on February 23, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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    The Edmonton Oilers made a move Sunday, recalling defenseman Jordan Oesterle from the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL.

    In 18 games with the Condors this season, the 24-year-old Oesterle has three goals and 11 points.

    The decision comes one day after Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson missed Saturday’s contest against the rival Calgary Flames because of a lower-body injury.

    While he isn’t a flashy player, Larsson seems to have made a positive impression on the Oilers coaching staff during his first season in Edmonton following last summer’s blockbuster trade involving scoring winger Taylor Hall.

    No surprise this development is leading to questions about the health of Larsson, with the Oilers set to begin the second half of a six-game home stand and sitting second in the Pacific Division standings.

    Video: Reaves and Boll drop the gloves in heavyweight bout

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    Heavyweight fighters Jared Boll and Ryan Reaves dropped the gloves during the second period of Sunday’s game between the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues.

    Those were some thunderous right hands thrown there, both combatants landing their fair share of punches before officials finally intervened.

    The Wild sit all alone in top spot of the Central Division

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    The Minnesota Wild bested the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, and now sit in sole possession of first place in the Central Division.

    Playing the second half of a back-to-back situation that involved travel from Dallas, where Minnesota won Saturday, the Wild fell behind Chicago courtesy two goals from Patrick Kane. Sure, the first goal on Devan Dubnyk was fluttered off the stick of Kane and under the arm of the Minnesota goalie.

    But Dubnyk played the remainder of this pivotal game the way Wild fans have become accustomed to since he was acquired. He made 33 saves and was busiest in the second period. Outside of Kane’s second goal, Dubnyk was solid in the middle period and didn’t give up anything the rest of the way. The Wild came back for a 3-2 win. On the road. In hostile territory.

    Minnesota, not far removed from a franchise-best 12-game winning streak, now sits at 61 points in 42 games, two points ahead of the Blackhawks and with four fewer games played.

    Jason Pominville scored the winner early in the third period.

    There are many reasons for the Wild’s success through the first half under coach Bruce Boudreau. Dubnyk’s play has been Vezina caliber. He has a .940 save percentage and a 1.77 goals-against average. Minnesota is second in the league when it comes to the lowest number of goals-against per game and only Washington is better in that category.

    The Wild have been scoring plenty, too, fourth in the league with 3.19 goals-for per game, with contributions throughout their lineup.

    Free agent signings can always be a risk — an expensive risk — but Eric Staal has rewarded the Wild by producing at just under a point per game rate. He could have his most productive season in several years — at the age of 32 and approaching 1,000 regular season games played.

    They won’t have long to enjoy their view from the top.

    The Wild host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday to begin a four-game home stand.

    More bad news for Bolts: Callahan out four weeks with lower-body injury

    CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 10: Ryan Callahan #24 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts against the Chicago Blackhawks during Game Four of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center on June 10, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Four points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and about to begin a six-game road trip, the Tampa Bay Lightning face a tough task trying to climb the Eastern Conference standings.

    There was more bad news for the Bolts on Sunday.

    Forward Ryan Callahan, who hasn’t played since Jan. 7, will miss approximately four weeks because of a lower-body injury, the club announced.

    Callahan made his season debut at the end of October. The start to his season was delayed due to the recovery from hip surgery he underwent to fix an issue from last season. Based on a report from Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday, Callahan is once again dealing with a hip injury, although the club didn’t elaborate, announcing it as a lower-body injury.

    In 18 games this season, Callahan has two goals and four points.

    The Bolts, Stanley Cup contenders that have gone deep into the post-season in each of the last two campaigns, are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Right now, Toronto, Ottawa and Florida all sit ahead of the Lightning in the battle for third in the Atlantic. Now into the second half of the season, they will have to quickly get out of this funk in order to close in the post-season race.

    “The results are all that matters,” Brian Boyle told the Tampa Bay Times. “We need to change our attitude a little bit, kind of find our mojo, carry ourselves with a little bit more confidence. We can score quick goals. We can come from behind, jump out to leads and bury teams. We’ve done that in the past with this group.”

    The Bolts begin this six-game road trip Monday against the L.A. Kings.