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Pressure’s on Poile to add a top center in Nashville

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David Poile needs a top center to skate with newly acquired winger James Neal. He knows it. Everyone knows it. It’s just not clear how — or if — he’ll be able to do it.

The Predators’ general manager has already tried to pick Jason Spezza out of Ottawa, only for Spezza to nix the deal.

Tomorrow, Poile will try again when the free-agent frenzy begins. And despite Nashville’s well-known financial constraints, he says he’s got the budget to play the game.

In fact, Poile can’t afford not to. Not after hiring Peter Laviolette to coach a more up-tempo, offensive-oriented system. And not after selling Neal on the new, “fun way to play” Preds.

“Things are changing here,” Neal said today on a conference call. “We’re going to be a more offensive team. I’ve talked to coach Laviolette. Nothing but a bright future ahead.”

At the moment, Mike Fisher, Matt Cullen, Paul Gaustad, and Colin Wilson are the centers the Preds have got — a collection that doesn’t exactly scream offensive juggernaut.

So, who could Poile go out and get?

The biggest-name center that’s expected to test the market is, of course, Colorardo’s Paul Stastny. However, one would think the Preds would really have to knock Stastny’s socks off, financially speaking, to get him. After all, Stastny has no strong desire to leave Denver, and even if he can’t get a deal done with the Avs, there will be plenty of other suitors for his services. Like the Blackhawks. Would the 28-year-old take less to play for a proven contender like Chicago? If you haven’t heard, the ‘Hawks are in need of a second-line center. And unfortunately for Poile, “come to Nashville and win a Stanley Cup” isn’t a sales pitch he can use. Not like the ‘Hawks could, at least.

Besides Stastny, UFA centers include Mikhail Grabovski, Brad Richards, and Mike Ribeiro. Oh, and if Mathieu Perreault doesn’t accept the Ducks’ offer, him too.

Or, to put it another way, a guy the Leafs bought out, a guy the Rangers bought out, a guy the Coyotes bought out, and a guy the Ducks didn’t qualify.

Take your pick.

Related: Poile reaffirms that Weber’s not for sale

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.