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NHL starting the season in Russia again in 2011-2012? Nyet!

At the beginning of this season when the NHL sent eight teams to Europe to begin the season and play exhibitions against some of the pro teams around the continent, the most intriguing arrangement involved the Hurricanes playing the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg. With that game being a bit rougher than most exhibitions go, the NHL had some worries about going back at it again next year.

Those memories sitting fresh in the minds of the NHL executives and the inability to negotiate peaceably with the KHL have eliminated the possibility of the NHL kicking off the 2011-2012 season in Russia. Jeff Z. Klein and Stu Hackel of the New York Times share with us that the two dysfunctional sides will be taking a pass on working things out to get the Rangers and Capitals to kick off their seasons abroad next year and a big reason why centers around that SKA-Hurricanes game.

According to Bill Daly, the N.H.L. deputy commissioner, a key reason for the lack of agreement on exhibition games was the contentious game between SKA St. Petersburg and the Carolina Hurricanes last October.

SKA won, 5-3, but the Hurricanes did not allow their captain and star, Eric Staal, off the bench for the last 25 minutes because, Coach Paul Maurice said, SKA body checkers “were getting awfully close to his knees.”

Asked Friday if the deal fell through because of what happened on or off the ice in St. Petersburg, Daly replied, “The former.”

Who says exhibition games don’t count for anything?

While that game had a lot of attention paid to it in Russia because of the NHL and KHL having such a contentious relationship, it didn’t really register on the radar of NHL fans at all during the preseason. Now, it’s the leading reason why the NHL and KHL at least won’t be going back next year.

The grumpy tinkle-tinkle contest between both sides is maddening because while the NHL is the big dog of all the pro leagues, the KHL wants to be their main competitor but aren’t actually close to being that even in spite of the star power and press releases from Moscow. The NHL hates seeing any of their stars go to Russia and Russia is more than happy to welcome them over to put one over on the league.

Of course if the two leagues could put their bad feelings aside and work out a transfer agreement, things would work out much smoother for both sides. The two sides haven’t had a working transfer agreement since the KHL was formed in 2008. Having these types of spats with both sides being too stubborn to work out anything is disheartening because both sides, the NHL in particular, could benefit from a working agreement.

Instead, Russian fans will be denied the opportunity to see Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, and Semyon Varlamov play on home ice in their home country. Both sides should be trying to win fans from all over instead of screwing them over.

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.