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NHL's first weekend features plenty of excitement

by Dan Rosen
From the United States to Canada and all the way across the Atlantic to Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic, the National Hockey League was all over the place this past weekend.

It's only the start, but the opening weekend to the 2010-11 NHL regular season gave us all so much to talk about.

We saw rookies make a statement.

The Rangers' Derek Stepan became the fourth player in League history to record a hat trick in his first game. The Oilers' toe-dragging Jordan Eberle put in his bid for early Goal of the Year honors. The Hurricanes 18-year-old future star Jeff Skinner put on just a silly move for a shootout winner in Helsinki. The Flyers' Sergei Bobrovsky became the youngest goalie (22) in team history to win a season-opening game.

We saw the latest Stanley Cup-winning goalie, Antti Niemi, make a successful debut with his new team, stopping 30 of 32 shots in the Sharks' 3-2 overtime victory at Ericsson Globe in Stockholm. We saw his old team, the Chicago Blackhawks, drop a pair to start the season, proving nothing comes easy, even to champions.

We saw the opening of a shining brand new and well-deserved building in Pittsburgh, but we didn't see the home team pull out a victory the night it cracked open the Consol Energy Center.

Four teams that did not make the playoffs last season -- Carolina, Toronto, Edmonton and Dallas -- are already 2-0.

Some of the League's biggest stars, usually not the pugilistic type, dropped the gloves. Pavel Datsyuk's first NHL fight in his 10th season was against Corey Perry. Ilya Kovalchuk scrapped with Mike Green.

Boston made headlines not just with a split in Prague against the Coyotes, but with new contracts to stars Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. Bergeron got a three-year extension reportedly worth $15 million and Chara got a seven-year extension reportedly worth $45.5 million, the richest deal in Bruins' history, according to the Boston Globe.

For the first time in 21 seasons, the Stars were opening the season in one place and Mike Modano was somewhere else. Modano, who is home in Detroit, scored on his first shot as a Red Wing on Friday night. Meanwhile, Modano's old boys were scoring a 4-3 overtime victory in New Jersey.

Then, of course, there were the injuries.

The Islanders, who can ill afford to lose another player after watching Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo go down in the preseason, will have to re-evaluate star center John Tavares on Monday after he collided in open ice with Stars forward Adam Burish on Saturday and suffered a mild concussion.

The Devils, already limited to just 20 roster players because of salary cap concerns, saw Anton Volchenkov and Brian Rolston suffer injuries in Saturday's 7-2 loss in Washington. Pierre-Luc Letourneu-Leblond has also been suspended for receiving an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of Saturday's 7-2 loss at Washington. He went after rookie Marcus Johansson with 4:07 to play in the game.

The scariest of them all happened Friday night in Atlanta when Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec  collapsed on the ice after losing consciousness 2:25 into the first period against Washington. Pavelec was taken off on a stretcher and placed into an ambulance, where he regained consciousness on his way to an Atlanta area hospital. He was diagnosed with a concussion, likely from when his head hit the ice as he fell.

Pavelec left the hospital on Sunday and hopefully will be just fine. The NHL showed in just four days that it most definitely is.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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