Brandon Pirri

Pirri leads list of ‘Hawks prospects to watch

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Since 2008, when the Chicago Blackhawks took Kyle Beach with the 11th overall pick, the highest they’ve drafted is 18th. Which is to say, they’d be excused if their system wasn’t chock-full of top prospects.

But after a championship season in which home-grown youngsters like Brandon Saad (43rd overall in 2011) and Andrew Shaw (139th in 2011) played key roles, there could be even more of those stories in 2013-14.

Brandon Pirri is one name ‘Hawks fans can expect to hear often during training camp. Drafted 59th overall in 2009, the 22-year-old center is coming off an AHL-high 75-point season with Rockford.

“Brandon has done everything we’ve asked him to do,” ‘Hawks GM Stan Bowman said in July, per the Chicago Tribune. “He’s slowly grown his game each year. He’s not just an offensive guy, he played in all situations. To lead the whole league in scoring as a 21-year-old — it’s pretty impressive. (It) showed he’s got a lot of talent. We’ve brought him along slowly and we’re excited about what he brings.”

Pirri is one of the candidates to grab the open second-line center job. However, that’s traditionally a role that demands responsibility at both ends of the ice, not just a points producer.

“One of the things we really worked on in Rockford the last three years is his defensive responsibilities in his own end and when he doesn’t have the puck, just trying to make him into a well-rounded two-way player,” said IceHogs coach Ted Dent, per ESPN Chicago.

Besides Pirri, there are others that ‘Hawks management is hoping are ready to take the step to become full-timers in the NHL, like forwards Jimmy Hayes, Jeremy Morin and Ben Smith.

“We’ve built this team for the most part from the ground up, adding a few pieces from the outside,” Bowman said in June, per the Sun-Times. “Really, the core from this group came from drafting. We’d like to continue this process.”

More Blackhawks day on PHT:

Second-line center spot up for grabs in Chicago

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.