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NHL provides video explanations for two hits-related rule changes

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Earlier this summer, the NHL’s Board of Governors decided to make further tweaks to its rules regarding penalty and suspension-worthy hits in the hopes of reducing ugly checks and the troubling injuries that come with them. The meeting resulted in wording changes for Rules 41 (boarding) and 48 (illegal check to the head).

The changes to Rule 41 should make it easier for referees to make calls regarding boarding penalties. It now penalizes players who fail to avoid or minimize contact with a defenseless opponent along the boards. On the other hand, it also gives referees discretion if they believe the victim put himself into a vulnerable position in the last moment before a hit, making the conclusion unavoidable. (Referees will also make judgment calls about the severity of the impact.)

Rule 48 has been simplified with a significant deleted phrase. A hit will now be illegal if the head is the “principal point of contact” without the exception of a “blindside or lateral hit.” Debating the suspension-worthiness of a check last season often seemed like splitting hairs because of the “blindside or lateral hit” provision, so this should make things much clearer. Much like the boarding alteration, there is some leeway given to hitters if the recipient moved into that position at an inopportune moment.

While the wording has been changed, any grammar school teacher will tell you that some people are better visual learners. For that reason, the NHL decided to provide video explanations of the two changed rules.

First, here’s the video for Rule 48.

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Now let’s take a look at the boarding-related changes to Rule 41.

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(Am I the only one who thinks that it’s still kind of weird to view Brendan Shanahan in the role of league disciplinarian – or as an NHL executive in general, really?)

On paper, these changes seem like strong steps in the right direction. The league is also looking into other measures to make the game safer, but many make a valid argument that it still comes down to the players cleaning up their acts. Steven Stamkos has been outspoken about this subject, which you can see in the video below.

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Whatever the case may be, the NHL needs to do what it can to minimize the odds for serious injuries. Using safer equipment and implementing more straightforward rules are two solid ways to move in the right direction, but the 2011-12 season will ultimately decide if Shanahan & Co. are on the correct course.

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.