Henrik Lundqvist

Rangers got Lundqvist because Maloney ‘happened to glance’ at scout’s book

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For nearly a decade now, the New York Rangers’ greatest strength has been goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. He’s played a big role in the team making the playoffs in eight of their last nine seasons and is the single biggest reason the Rangers have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.

But it was never a mortal lock that the Rangers would get Lundqvist. He wasn’t highly regarded going into the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. When the Swedish goaltender made the trip to Calgary for the draft, the thinking was that he might get taken in the fourth or fifth round.

“When it got to the sixth round, I thought maybe coming to Calgary hadn’t been such a great idea,” Lundqvist told the New York Post.

“I mean, all my buddies had been taken and were kind of looking at me. We were all sitting in the same row. Nobody knew exactly how to act or what to say. It was kind of like, ‘Come on, Hank.’ It was not a great feeling.”

He was then told by someone in Dallas that they were going to take him in the sixth round. His twin brother, Joel Lundqvist, had already been selected by the Stars in the third round, so it made some sense. He was excited when the Stars turn came up, but they took forward Ladislav Vlcek instead.

Of course, the Rangers ended up taking him in the seventh round with the 205th pick overall, but it’s not like it was all part of some grand strategy. Rangers scout Crister Rockstrom thought highly of Henrik Lundqvist, but director of scouting Martin Madden didn’t.

That might have been the end of it, except between the sixth and seventh rounds Don Maloney, who was the Rangers’ assistant GM and in charge of the draft, “happened to glance over at (Rockstrom’s) book that had all of his rankings of the eligible players going into the draft.”

Maloney noticed that Rockstrom had listed Lundqvist as his top European goaltender, but the scout hadn’t been pushing Maloney to select him because Madden had already shot him down.

“I didn’t know Henrik Lundqvist from Joe Smith,” Maloney said, but he respected Rockstrom’s opinion and decided to draft Lundqvist anyways.

And the course of the Rangers changed as a result.

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.