Alexander Radulov

Radulov says he has something to prove…to himself

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Whatever the future has in store for Alex Radulov, public relations probably isn’t it.

After learning he and Andrei Kostitsyn would return to the Nashville Predators lineup after a two-game exile, the Russian forward told reporters he’d be playing Game 5 with a purpose.

What kind of purpose, you ask?

“I have something to prove,” Radulov told The Tennessean. “Not to you guys or to somebody, first of all it’s to myself and that’s about it.”

Two ways to look at this.

One, Radulov’s determined, focused and wants to make a difference tonight. As The Tennessean’s Josh Coooper writes, “There are times when you can tell a player is ready for a game or a moment. [Radulov] appeared to have that type of swagger.”

Two, this is just the latest example of the “me-first” mentality Radulov’s shown throughout the series (and his entire Nashville career, some would argue.)

After getting busted for breaking curfew and costing his team at a critical point in the season, Radulov wasn’t exactly the most remorseful guy on earth.

His statement…

“Yeah. I didn’t come back that late – the same. But like I said before, I don’t want to talk about it. They did what they have to do. I’m good with that. I’m disappointed and understand what is my mistake. I really hope that everything is going to work out for our team better and if I get a chance to play again, maybe in the future, I’ll do what it will take to help the team to win and basically that is it.”

That quote (and lack of proper public apology from him and Kostitsyn) led CBC’s Elliotte Friedman to write the following:

Here is what both should have apologized for:

Blowing curfew the night before a PLAYOFF game, especially after their team was already behind in the series;

Playing horribly after it occurred;

Embarrassing a GM who did everything you wanted and took a lot of heat for it (Radulov), traded for you (Kostitsyn) and a coach who sat out valued players to make room;

Finally, letting down teammates who’ve never had a better shot at winning the Stanley Cup.

The bright side is that, on Saturday, Preds head coach Barry Trotz shrewdly told Radulov and Kostitsyn of their return to the lineup. That allowed the pair a couple of days to mentally prepare for action.

“I just told them, ‘You’re back in. You can make a difference. It’s not going to be easy and people aren’t going to let you off the hook. You’re going to be judged, you’re going to be weighed, all those things,'” said Trotz. “I needed to tell them early so they could get in the right frame of mind.”

Can’t wait to see if it 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.