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Bill Daly admits he ‘can’t guarantee’ Thrashers will remain in Atlanta

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The rumor mill regarding the Atlanta Thrashers’ possible move to Winnipeg keeps humming along and the NHL did little to slow it down today. When asked about relocation, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly didn’t confirm the rumors. Yet a lot might be read into the fact that he didn’t really deny the possibility of a move, either.

To catch you up to speed quickly, the Thrashers have emerged as Winnipeg’s Plan B for a returning NHL franchise after the City of Glendale managed to keep the Phoenix Coyotes for at least one more season. While Thrashers fans wait nervously to find out if the team will remain in Atlanta, city officials admitted that they wouldn’t be able to swing the same $25 million deal to keep the Thrashers from moving that Glendale made to retain the Coyotes.

To many, there is a severe gap in desperation from the league’s efforts to keep the two teams from moving. Here’s what Daly said about the Thrashers’ situation and part of the reason why the two scenarios aren’t directly comparable. (Source: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)

Q: Can you guarantee the team will be in Atlanta next season?

A: “Nope. I can’t guarantee that.”

(snip)

Q: Can you address rumors that a franchise sale and a move to Winnipeg is pretty much done and that an announcement is imminent?

A: “There is nothing that has been done, nothing has been planned and nothing has been scheduled. Certainly, no transaction has been agreed to, not that I’m aware of.”

(snip)

Q: You and commissioner Gary Bettman both made frequent trips to Phoenix to speak publicly about the Coyotes staying there, but there has been no similar efforts in Atlanta. Why not?

A: “The situations are very different from a host of perspectives, but not the least of which are the bankruptcy issues we had [in Phoenix], the fight in bankruptcy court and the league having to purchase the club. There were a unique set of circumstances that required the league’s presence in Glendale. The bottom line is, we owned that club.”

Q: I understand that. But does that preclude you or Gary from coming to Atlanta to show support for the franchise and help the process?

A: “No, of course not. If there was some reasonable sense that a public appeal would move the process along, then something would be done. But we’re not at that point.”

If this situation escalates as much as rumors suggest, it might be true that the NHL is beyond “that point.” It might take until after the Stanley Cup finals have been completed or perhaps a bit longer to find out the truth, but either way, we’ll let you know what happens.

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.