San Jose Sharks v Dallas Stars

Pacific Division Watch (February 6)

With the All-Star break over, it’s time for the NHL playoff races to intensify. Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division’s outlook. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Pacific Division outlook (February 6-13)

1. Dallas Stars (30-18-5 for 65 pts; 53 Games Played)

Current streak: Three loses in a row.

Week ahead: Two home games – vs. Phoenix (Wed), vs. Chicago (Fri).

Thoughts: Dallas is still on top of the Pacific, but to give you an idea of how competitive if it is: they only have a five point lead over last place Los Angeles. Wow.

2. San Jose Sharks (28-19-6 for 62 pts; 53 GP)

Current streak: Three wins in a row.

Week ahead: Three road games – Washington (Tues), Columbus (Wed), New Jersey (Fri).

Thoughts: The Sharks won the first two games of a seven game road trip that continues this week. San Jose will then finish February with three more away games (with two games at home sandwiched in between) before a friendly March schedule begins.

3. Anaheim Ducks (29-21-4 for 62 pts; 54 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Two road games: vs. Vancouver (Wed) and Calgary (Fri).

Thoughts: The Ducks are in the middle of a Northwest Division tour, having beaten Colorado. They’ll finish it off in Edmonton a week from today.

4. Phoenix Coyotes (26-19-9 for 61 pts; 61 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: At home vs. Colorado (Mon), @ Dallas (Wed), home vs. Chicago (Sat).

Thoughts: The Coyotes earned a 1-0 win playing their style of hockey on Saturday, so they should go into a very tough week with some confidence.

5. Los Angeles Kings (29-22-2 for 60 pts; 53 GP)

Current streak: Two wins in a row.

Week ahead: Two road games @ Pittsburgh (Thurs) and @ Washington (Sat).

Thoughts: The Kings have two wins and five out of six points in the first three games of their lengthy 10-game roadtrip, but this week includes two tough ones. Then again, if you had to catch the Penguins (minus Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) and Capitals (minus Alex Semin, maybe without Mike Green and/or Alex Ovechkin), this might be a good week to do it.

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.