Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs

Oilers decide that Shawn Horcoff’s return is worth taking a ‘calculated risk’

There are some (perhaps many) who will question the Edmonton Oilers and Shawn Horcoff’s “calculated risk” to allow the team captain to return to the ice before his knee injury fully healed.

Horcoff will skate with a brace on his right knee as he hasn’t fully recovered from a December 7th injury in which he collided with Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry.

Considering how far the Oilers are out of the Western Conference playoff picture, it seems curious to rush their 32-year-old captain back to action. Horcoff feels that there is plenty for the team to gain during the rest of the 2010-11 season, even if the playoffs are a distant possibility.

“Just because you’re out of the playoffs doesn’t mean you can’t put emphasis on hockey games,” said the veteran centre, who will likely skate between Taylor Hall and Dustin Penner in Thursday’s home game against the Dallas Stars at Rexall Place.

“Just because you’re out of the playoffs doesn’t mean you have nothing to play for. You have a job to play for,” he continued.

“We’ll just have to be creative and find some ways to push each other, to make sure every game is competitive. You have to work toward something. You still have to develop these kids, you have to develop your system play, you have to develop your team.

“When you finish the season strong, that has a tendency to carry on to the next one. We want to go into this summer feeling good about ourselves.”

Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s a wise idea to allow Horcoff to return so far from full strength without the dangling carrot of a playoff spot. Then again, the Oilers seem to be taking a big picture approach with this campaign; bringing back their captain during a seemingly lost season falls in line with barring Sheldon Souray from training camp despite the impact it would have on his trade value.

The team is attempting to foster a culture of winning after years of losing since the Chris Pronger trade. Horcoff is likely to be a part of that – at least in the early going – so that’s why they’re taking a risk by bringing him back.

We’ll just have to wait and see if that ends up being a wise decision or a foolish mistake.

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.