Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist eager to get started, expecting big things with Brad Richards this year

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With training camp approaching and everyone’s hopes around the NHL being high, it’s no surprise that one of those places where the expectations have grown is New York City. The Rangers were able to get two of their established young stars in Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky locked into deals to keep them around for a few more years.

Oh yeah, they signed the biggest free agent star on the market in Brad Richards. With Richards on board now to give Marian Gaborik someone to feed him pucks so he can try to score 40+ goals once again, things are exciting once again for the Rangers heading into this season and the one guy who’s most excited is Henrik Lundqvist.

Lundqvist spoke with Andrew Gross of The Bergen Record about his thoughts going into this season, one built on a disappointing performance in the first round of the playoffs last year and Lundqvist is excited to start.

“Last year, we were a pretty solid team,” said Lundqvist, who will be among the Rangers touring several New York City Fire Department houses today and greeting family members affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at a reception at the World Trade Center site. “Now, with Brad, we have a little more edge to the team, there’s more skill here in the lineup.”

As for the expectations on the team, Lundqvist welcomes the added pressure.

They do so knowing a repeat of last season’s first-round playoff ouster will now be considered a bitter disappointment, not a building season.

“We should have higher expectations than last year,” Lundqvist said. “I think we’re a better team now than last year.”

The pressure is always high to succeed in New York and Lundqvist has always been the guy to do his job and carry the Rangers as far as they could go. Now he’s got a pair of All-Star caliber offensive stars and a lot of solid younger players dotting the lineup with a host of role playing forwards and a defensive unit that’s strong, the Rangers will be a tough team to deal with. It won’t be easy though. The Rangers division, the Atlantic, is shaping up to be the toughest in the NHL.

With Pittsburgh already there and Philadelphia always being a tough team, the Devils and Islanders figure to be stronger as well and also challenge for the playoffs. The Rangers will face all of those teams the most this year and all of those points are going to be hard earned. Lundqvist and the rest of the team are going to have to be at their best to be able to make the postseason. At the very least with Lundqvist in goal, the Rangers are already at an advantage against most teams. Having an all-world caliber goalie is a nice luxury to have.

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.