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After two-game losing streak, Washington makes moves

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While back-to-back losses in Edmonton and Vancouver aren’t cause for full-scale panic, the Washington Capitals made some rather small-yet-curious moves prior to tonight’s game against Anaheim:

John Erskine will draw in and make his season debut after undergoing shoulder surgery. The rugged defenseman will be a welcome addition to a team that allowed a season-high seven goals to the Canucks on Saturday.

“We’ve been waiting awhile to get him back,” Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau told the Washington Post. “Hopefully there’s not too much rust on him; I’m sure there’s gonna be some but hopefully it’s not too much.”

— To make room for Erskine, Sean Collins was returned to Hershey of the AHL. Collins pretty much sealed his fate against Vancouver by going minus-2 in just over nine minutes of ice time.

Rookie F Cody Eakin was called up from Hershey and should make his NHL debut against the Ducks after Jeff Halpern skated with the healthy scratches this morning. Halpern only played 11:59 against Vancouver and was bad in the faceoff circle (1-for-5, 16.7 percent), though Boudreau was quick to explain this isn’t him sending a message.

“I don’t like using the word ‘messages’. It’s just we’ve got 13 forwards right now and wanted to take a look at Cody and it’s the way it worked out,” Boudreau told the Washington Examiner. “Every report we’ve gotten is that [Eakin] has played really, really well down in Hershey. He’s a guy that we really wanted to take a look at. So we thought Hershey only had one game this week and this was a good opportunity for us to take a look at him.”

— Sounds like Mike Knuble’s demotion to the fourth line will extend to tonight’s affair. Knuble has made it clear he’s not happy with the move, probably because his production has been pretty solid thus far. The 39-year-old winger has 2G-4A-6PTS in nine games and is a plus-2, but will be playing alongside a couple of greenhorns in Eakin, 20, and Mathieu Perreault, 24.

These are all small moves, sure, but their timing is the thing. Washington lost two straight after winning seven to start the year and you get the feeling that pissed a few people off. The Caps (Boudreau especially) appear to be all business this year, something Knuble explained to Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington:

“We knew coming in it would be a more competitive season. Maybe seasons before you could rest on your laurels, but that’s not good enough. That’s the way this coach works.”

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.