NHL Center Ice package sees a slight price increase; Is it worth it?

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First things first, let me get to the most important information. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy reports that the NHL Center Ice package will be marginally more expensive for the 2010-11 season than it was last year.

Last year, NHLCI was $163.80 if ordered before Oct. 31. This season, the price has risen to $171.80 (a.k.a. four easy payments of $42.95) if you order Center Ice before Halloween. No word on how high the price is after that date.

Also, NHL Center Ice will offer a free preview for most of the season’s first month, going free from Oct. 7-24.

As far as clearance (Clarence), In Demand told us that NHLCI “should be available to at least as many systems as last year,” and may still add more cable systems as we get closer to puck-drop.

When in comes to the NHL Center Ice pay-per-view package, its beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

On one hand, the quantity of games is gorgeous. There might be some exceptions when it comes to exclusive coverage of individual contests, but for the most part, you could watch just about every one of your favorite team’s (or teams’) matches. (They showed off this strength with an incredibly obnoxious – but perhaps informative – commercial campaign last season.) While national coverage of hockey is growing, it will be quite some time until we get to see wider coverage of the 82-game season, so Center Ice has its strenghts.

On the other hand, the picture quality is downright ugly. While the package occasionally includes one (and maybe more, considering your cable/satellite provider) pristine HD channel, the rest of the feeds are nearly unthinkable in an era of gorgeous high definition broadcasts.

So it really comes down to two arguments. One side will claim that getting comprehensive coverage of daily NHL action for “four easy payments of $42.95” isn’t that bad of a value, really. After all, you can blow that much money on a couple of seats to a live game. That being said, others will remark that paying more than $160 for games with mediocre-at-best picture quality is absurd.

I’m not certain that I can personally afford either of the full coverage NHL options, but if I had to choose, I would go with NHL.com’s Game Center option. In my limited experience with the promotion last season, you can stream up to four games at once and (gasp) even get high definition feeds of many matchups. Considering the fact some fancy pants computers can hook up to your TV, Game Center might just be the better option for hardcore hockey fans.

We’ll keep an eye on developments for that service and possibly any other options for hockey fans hungry for extended coverage. And, no doubt, if Center Ice does improve their feeds we’ll pass that note along as well.

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.