Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins

Flyers’ management pleased with Zherdev’s recent play

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The Flyers have gone through a rough patch at the worst possible time, but not all of the news is bad news in the City of Brotherly Love. After sitting most of the second half of the season, Nikolay Zherdev is playing in his 3rd straight game tonight. Three straight games may not sound like much, but it’s the first time he’s completed the trifecta in about a month. Thus far, he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

It’s no secret that the biggest problems the Flyers have had with Zherdev have been his bouts with inconsistency. The Rangers had the same concerns when they wouldn’t match his arbitration number after the 2008-09 season. They were also the reason he was even available for the Rangers in the first place when he was traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets in a deal that gave them Fedor Tyutin. So when his GM says he’s been playing well with consistency, it means much more than if he were talking about the average healthy scratch. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren spoke about Zherdev and his strong play as of late:

“[Last time he played three straight] He played real good for half the game and then he ran out of gas. I think this time in the two games he’s played he’s looked fresh. He’s really worked hard and I’m proud of him.

“He spent a lot of time with the assistant coaches and a lot of time just by himself. He’s worked and it shows. We knew at some point that he’d come up as a pretty nice option for us to get in there. Credit to Nik, he worked out and he’s played good in the games he has played lately.”

When Philadelphia signed Zherdev as a free agent in the offseason, they signed him to a one-year deal because they wanted to see if they were getting a different player. He said all the right things as he was trying to return to the NHL (after a year in Russia). He knew there were questions about his character and work-ethic—questions that were of such concern that the former #4 overall pick was only able to ink that one-year deal worth $2 million.

Unlike many young players, there were no questions about his skill. Everyone agrees he’s a world-class talent; the only problem is that his employers have only seen the talent during stretches at a time. If he could play to his potential for 82 games straight, we’d have a player we could compare to Ilya Kovalchuk. Instead, he’s a player who’s oftentimes compared to Alexei Kovalev. No, that’s not a compliment.

If the Flyers can get some consistency down the stretch and in the playoffs from the enigmatic Russian, the offseason signing will look like a stroke of genius. Months of frustration can be wiped away with a couple of months of productivity. The talent is there—and over the last two games, the commitment has been there as well.

Just what the Eastern Conference contenders wanted to hear: the Flyers could have another talented scorer at their disposal.

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.