Jarmo Kekalainen

With three first-round picks, Kekalainen says Columbus will be ‘active and aggressive’ at Draft

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If Jarmo Kekelainen’s past is any suggestion, he’ll be one to watch at the NHL Entry Draft.

The Blue Jackets GM — who, two months ago, shook up the trade deadline by acquiring Marian Gaborik — has vowed to be a mover and/or shaker at Sunday’s draft in New Jersey.

“Every draft is different, not just the players available but the conversations between clubs,” he told the Columbus Dispatch. “We’re going to be active and aggressive.”

That’s a quote worth paying attention to, as the rookie GM has the tools at his disposal to make a real splash.

Columbus holds three first-round picks — No. 14, 19 and 27 overall — and heads into Sunday with 17 players under contract for next season and over $18 million in cap space.

Kekalainen also has experience in holding three first-round picks from his time as St. Louis’ “draft guru.”

Here’s more, from the Dispatch:

In 2007, the Blues had three first-round picks — Nos. 9, 24 and 26 — at the draft in Nationwide Arena. Six years later, the results are a mixed bag. Kekalainen said the Blues tried hard to move up but couldn’t find any takers. So they traded down from the No. 9 spot, giving that pick to San Jose for No. 13 overall, a second-round pick and a third-round pick in 2008.

The Sharks took Logan Couture with the No. 9 pick, and the Blues took Lars Eller, who was later traded to Montreal for goaltender Jaroslav Halak. The Blues traded the No. 24 pick and a third-round pick to Calgary for No. 18 and took defenseman Ian Cole, who has had a so-so career. With the 26th overall pick, the Blues drafted [David] Perron, one of their “foundation” players.

“We would have taken Eller at No. 9, but we thought we’d get him later, and we were right,” Kekalainen said. “For San Jose, Couture was definitely a player worth moving up for.”

Kekalainen says his approach to drafting players is very basic.

“I have a very simple philosophy: You work hard and you rely on your instincts, which are shaped by your experiences,” he explained. “You have to get to the core of the player, find out what motivates them, find out what they’re about.”

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.