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Saturday, March 26, 2011
Weekend wrap: Premiere Games cut down, Savard not improving, Recchi crosses line

By Pierre LeBrun

And then there were four.

The NHL's original plan to have six of its teams open the regular season overseas next season has been downsized to four, sources told ESPN.com Saturday.

The Edmonton Oilers and Washington Capitals, part of the original six teams asked to go over, are no longer in the mix. The New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres remain slated to open next season in Europe.

But certainly not in Russia. As reportedly earlier this week, talks between the KHL and NHL have fallen through and there won't be any Premiere Games in Russia as originally hoped. That's why Alex Ovechkin and the Caps are no longer in the Premiere Games mix. They were only a fit if Ovechkin could play a game in his home country.

And here's where it gets interesting. While KHL president Alexander Medvedev said this week in Russia that the NHL had asked for too much money and that's why the games are a no-go, two sources told ESPN.com Saturday that another reason for the collapse in talks was that Medvedev was "resistant" to the notion of two NHL teams playing each other in Russia. Instead, the KHL president wanted the two NHL teams to face off against KHL clubs. A total no-go -- the point of the Premiere Games is to feature regular-season NHL games between NHL teams.

Look for Stockholm, Helsinki and possibly Berlin to be in the Premiere Games mix as host cities next fall.

Bruins' concussion issues

Wish I had better news to forward on the Marc Savard front, but it's quite the opposite. A source told ESPN.com Saturday that the concussed Bruins center is having "real memory problems and he's quite worried about it."

Just another reminder how serious the concussion issue is around the NHL. Savard's career is in serious doubt and that's just not right.

I bring this up because I'm uncomfortable with the way Mark Recchi got off the hook pretty lightly this past week for his comments doubting the severity of Max Pacioretty's concussion in Montreal. Yes, Recchi later explained it was a move to take the heat off teammate Zdeno Chara ahead of his much anticipated rematch with the Canadiens.

And Recchi, a player who is tremendously respected around the league by players and media alike, has always treated the game with respect. But he still crossed the line in this instance. Concussions are a critical issue in this league; Recchi knows that first-hand from Savard's trauma, and publicly questioning the degree of an opposing player's head injury just isn't right. Period.

Let's put it this way: Had Sean Avery made those comments instead of Recchi, what would the fallout have been?

Murray's future in Ottawa

The Ottawa Senators are winding down a disappointing season, although they've played much better of late. Soon the club will need to decide on its direction at GM. Will Bryan Murray stay or go?

"Nothing's been decided," Murray told ESPN.com Saturday. "But there will be further discussion near the end of the season with ownership."

Murray still has to decide if he wants the job moving forward, a decision he continues to weigh every day. My guess? I think he wants to come back. Having this kind of season isn't the way the veteran GM wants to go out. Of course, owner Eugene Melnyk has to want him back and that's not clear at this point.

Helping Murray's case of late is the trade, and signing, of Craig Anderson. The netminder has been outstanding since arriving in Ottawa and it appears Murray has made a shrewd move on that front.

Sakic in Avs' front office

So, what does Joe Sakic's front-office appointment mean exactly? Look at it as a Steve Yzerman-type scenario, a source told ESPN.com Saturday. Yzerman soaked in three years of front-office life in Detroit before deciding whether or not a GM job was something he really wanted to pursue. The idea is that Sakic will also try to be a sponge and soak in as much as he can over the next few years. From a PR point of view, a brilliant move by the struggling Avs, very much akin to John Elway joining the Broncos' front office.

Both are mega-brands in Denver.

This and that