Montreal vs Boston

Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Bruins, Habs battle for top spot in Northeast

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Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Boston Bruins will head to the Bell Centre for a match against the Montreal Canadiens at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Boston and Montreal had some serious question marks heading into this season, but also plenty of promise and so far the latter has won out. Both of these teams have been fantastic through eight games.

For Boston, the big story has been goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has flawlessly transitioned into the number one gig after Tim Thomas’ decision to take a season off. Perhaps the most encouraging thing about Rask is how he responded to surrendering six goals on 31 shots against Buffalo on Thursday. Rather than letting it get to him, he came right back with a 21-save shutout over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Montreal has also gotten great goaltending out of Carey Price, but that alone hasn’t led the Canadiens to a 6-2-0 start. One of the big differences for Montreal this season has been the rise of rookie forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. The duo has combined to record four goals and 12 points. Their addition has gives Montreal a lot of different offensive weapons and makes them a threat to score at all times.

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The return of 34-year-old defenseman Andrei Markov, who played in just 65 games over the previous three seasons due to injuries, has also been huge for Montreal. He’s finally healthy and already has re-established himself as one of the league’s best offensive defenseman, especially with the man advantage.

The Boston Bruins will counter with the depth that they’ve been known for over the last few years. If anything they’re looking stronger this season now that Nathan Horton is healthy after missing roughly half of the 2011-12 campaign with a concussion. They also have a thriving rookie of their own in 19-year-old blueliner Dougie Hamilton.

Just a point separates these two squads early in the battle for the Northeast Division as both teams look to build off of their strong starts.

Probable goaltenders: MON – Price (6-1-0, 1.70 GAA, .938 SV%) | BOS – Rask (5-1-1, 2.10 GAA, .919 SV%)

Top scorers: MON – Markov and Raphael Diaz are tied with eight points in eight games. | BOS – David Krejci (2-5-7, 8 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Montreal – Forwards: Petteri Nokelainen (back)
Boston – Forwards: Brad Marchand (shoulder), Daniel Paille (eye), Shawn Thornton (concussion), Marc Savard (concussion)

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.