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Your 2011 Heritage Classic primer

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Some might look at the transition from the 2011 Hockey Day in America double-header to the Heritage Classic as American hockey passing the torch to a frigid outdoor game in Canada, but it ultimately comes down to a day full of treats for hockey fans. Between NBC and Versus, U.S. puckheads can experience about nine straight hours of hockey this Sunday. So let’s take a look at an event some might call Canada’s answer to the Winter Classic.

The beauty of this February 20th game is that it lands deeper into the playoff picture than the January 1st Winter Classic, which means that the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames will have plenty to play for.

The Habs are locked into an intense race for the Northeast Division crown, as they currently trail their hated rivals the Boston Bruins for four points. Meanwhile the red-hot Flames forced their way into the Western Conference playoff picture, as they’re in a five-way tie for sixth place but are technically seated at 10th right now.

So with this playoff push in mind, three injured Canadiens might play in the game for reasons beyond the right to play in a historic game. NHL.com reports that Michael Cammalleri and Hal Gill are likely to make their returns to the Habs lineup, but the biggest upset is that James Wisniewski might also play only three days after blocking a shot with his face. (You can check out his nasty, Matt Hendricks-reminiscent wound in this post’s main image, via NHL.com.)

Forward Mike Cammalleri and defenseman Hal Gill both appear ready to return to the lineup, and Canadiens coach Jacques Martin even termed it “a good possibility” that defenseman James Wisniewski would be able to play less than 72 hours after being struck in the face by a puck in Thursday’s loss in Edmonton.

As you can see, this game means quite a bit to both teams, even beyond the big picture opportunity of playing an NHL contest outdoors in hockey-mad Canada.

Want more? Read these PHT articles

Weather has been the focus on Friday and Saturday, but all signs point to the show going on.

Feast your eyes on Carey Price’s really odd looking Heritage Classic mask, which is a tribute to goalie mask pioneer and all-time Montreal Canadiens great Jacques Plante.

Calgary officials track down some counterfeit HC jerseys.

Video: Tempers flare between Oilers and Predators, as Lucic and McLeod drop the gloves

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Things got feisty between the Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators on Friday.

It started in the second period after P.K. Subban took an elbow from Matt Hendricks along the end boards. Hendricks was immediately grabbed by Anthony Bitetto. Nothing really materialized from that, however the main event broke out between Milan Lucic and Nashville newcomer Cody McLeod.

Lucic landed some pretty heavy punches before the two players fell to the ice.

Video: Cam Ward loses it on Hornqvist, Hurricanes suffer ’embarrassing’ loss to Penguins

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Cam Ward had enough.

The Carolina Hurricanes goalie seemed particularly ticked off with Patric Hornqvist on Friday, twice taking out his frustrations in front of the net on the Pittsburgh Penguins forward.

Earlier in the game, Ward delivered a slash to the back of Hornqvist’s leg. In the third period, with the Hurricanes down five goals — that should give you an indication of what kind of night this was for Carolina — Ward snapped, delivering a punch with the blocker to Hornqvist after he slid into the Hurricanes puck stopper a split second after Evgeni Malkin jammed the puck in for a goal.

The final score? A 7-1 disaster of a loss to the Penguins, highlighted by Pittsburgh’s second-period offensive outburst. Ward played the entire game, allowing seven goals on 41 shots.

Carolina’s night also included star forward Jeff Skinner getting benched for the third period, after he took a pair of minor penalties — embellishment and unsportsmanlike conduct — in the second period.

“That’s pretty embarrassing. You don’t want to suffer a loss like that, especially in your home building,” Skinner told reporters.

The Hurricanes entered this game with a chance to jump into a wild card spot in the East.

Last week, the Hurricanes won four in a row, including a victory over Columbus, and continued their steady rise into the playoff hunt in the East. This week? It’s included losses to the Blue Jackets and Penguins.

The Hurricanes won’t have much time to think about this one. They travel to Columbus for a game Saturday evening.

With Claude Julien on the hot seat, Bruins lose late heartbreaker to Blackhawks

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The Boston Bruins have now lost three in a row, a losing streak that coincides with reports circulating that head coach Claude Julien’s job security is in jeopardy.

The bad news just keeps piling up for the Bruins: They’ve been shut out twice this week, as scoring continues to be an issue in Boston. They’re 22nd in the league in that category.

On Friday, the Bruins had their chances and once again held the edge in puck possession against the Chicago Blackhawks, finishing the game with 19 more shot attempts then the visitors, per hockeystats.ca.

But they couldn’t beat Scott Darling, who made 30 saves, and the real dagger came late in the third period when Marian Hossa scored off the rush with just over one minute remaining in regulation. Boston couldn’t even salvage a point out of this contest, losing 1-0.

The Bruins were all over the Blackhawks in the first period. They held a wide edge in shots on goal, but the Blackhawks were able to escape on the strength of some solid goaltending. They just hung around, and were able to break through in the third period.

The Bruins are still in a playoff position in the Atlantic Division. They are the top puck possession team in the league (although they have the second lowest shooting percentage at five-on-five) and Julien has had plenty of success behind that bench, helping guide the organization to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011 and a run to the Final in the lockout shortened campaign.

It would seem unfair to pin this roster’s shortcomings on the coach, especially given the offseason plans initially set out by Bruins management.

Though this loss likely puts Claude Julien Watch on high alert.

Sabres’ McCabe suffers shoulder injury, will not return versus Red Wings

New York Islanders v Buffalo Sabres
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The Buffalo Sabres will be down a defenseman for the remainder of Friday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Jake McCabe has left the game due to a shoulder injury suffered during the first period and will not return, the club stated during the second period.

Signed to a three-year, $4.8 million contract extension last summer, the 23-year-old McCabe has one goal and 10 points in 44 games this season for Buffalo

More recently, McCabe drew the immediate ire of the Winnipeg Jets after he delivered an open-ice hit on rookie Patrik Laine, who suffered a concussion on the play.