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Desperate Wild get Clutterbuck, Stoner back tonight; Koivu a gametime decision

Minnesota is proving to be the prime example of how life in the Western Conference can be rough. Last month, the Wild were looking like a potentially tough team to draw in the playoffs. After losses in nine of their last 14 games and being shutout in their last two games and compile a total of 33 shots in both games, things are feeling down in the dumps and times are desperate.

The Wild get a dose of good news today as Michael Russo of The Star Tribune tells us that they’ll get forward Cal Clutterbuck and defenseman Clayton Stoner back in the lineup against Vancouver tonight. For Clutterbuck, it’ll be his first game since receiving a blow to the head that led to Islanders forward Trevor Gillies being suspended for 10 games.

Making things all the more intriguing for the Wild is that captain and top center Mikko Koivu is a game time decision to play. Russo gives his insight there.

The big question mark right now is Mikko Koivu. The Wild’s captain, head coach Todd Richards and medical trainer Don Fuller had a long talk on the bench after the morning skate. Koivu and Richards said he’s a gametime decision. Koivu said “we’ll see” when asked if he’d skate warmups. Richards said he will skate warmups.

Richards said they were just trying to map out a plan on the bench and “it’s real, real close” to Koivu returning.

I’ve got to think he’s in. It could do more harm than good if Koivu skates warmups and then there’s all of a sudden a dejection because Koivu’s jersey comes off the hanger.

We’re inclined to agree with Russo on this one. After all, when a captain is giving it a go in warmups that’s a bit different than just another guy in the lineup. Taking the captain out when the team is in desperate need for a win and four points out of the eighth spot going against the top team in the conference is the sort of psychological kick in the groin you shouldn’t be delivering when your team needs a lift in a big way.

We don’t want to go writing any teams off before they’re eliminated, but if Koivu doesn’t go tonight and Vancouver spanks the Wild, it might be time for Wild fans to start scouting prospects for the 2011 NHL Draft.

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.