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.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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