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Ales Kotalik clears waivers, sent to AHL’s Abbotsford Heat; Can Jay Feaster clean up Calgary’s mess?

Before we can truly judge the work of new Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster, we must first give him some time to flush out the sometimes-awful moves made by his predecessor, Darryl Sutter.

Much like his brother Brent, Darryl was a solid-to-great coach. Unfortunately it appeared that he was promoted to the level of his incompetence when he became the Flames’ GM, though.

One of his worst moves involved a trade with often-lampooned New York Rangers GM Glen Sather: Sutter sent Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to New York for Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins last February.

The move was middling at best from a pure hockey standpoint, but from a salary cap standpoint, it was befuddling. Jokinen’s $5.25 million cap hit was set to expire while Kotalik’s $3 million per year mistake will linger through the 2011-12 season. Worst yet, the team added Jokinen back into the fold again this off-season.

Feaster will enjoy at least a slight bit of breathing room* now that Kotalik cleared waivers to the surprise of few/no one. It won’t be easy for the former Lightning GM, though, as Sutter left behind a team full of aging players with overpriced and lengthy deals. There are some expiring contracts, but they’re mostly of the cheap and overachieving variety as Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross and others are making far less than Kotalik.

While the Flames have shown some life lately, the fact of the matter is that Feaster needs to acknowledge the team’s mediocre ceiling. The blueprint of depending heavily on Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff isn’t working, especially considering the lack of value up and down the roster. It will hurt to see Iginla and other pricey veterans go, but how much longer will the team settle for their “seventh or eight seed at best” pattern?

Most top teams enjoy a successful mixture of value and youth; the Flames have very little of either. Feaster has a chance to begin such a transformation over the next month. We’ll have to wait and see which direction he takes.

* – Of course, Flames ownership will still have to pay Kotalik. Unless he bails them out by failing to report to the AHL, of course.

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.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

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.