Tim Thomas

No lineup changes expected in Boston-Philadelphia; American-born players to watch

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The Philadelphia Flyers are hoping for some big changes in tonight’s Game 2 match against the Boston Bruins, but those alterations must come from improved execution rather than fresh faces. Joe Haggerty reports that both teams are expected to feature the same lineups as Game 1 (yes, that includes Brian Boucher as the Flyers’ starter).

Boston @ Philadelphia (Versus)- 7:30 p.m. ET; Bruins lead series 1-0

Along with paying special attention to Lauren Hart (and Kate Smith) singing “God Bless America” tonight, especially patriotic fans might be curious to follow American-born players tonight. As you can see from this list, there aren’t a bunch of players from the United States, but many of them will play a prominent role in Game 2. (Birthplace information via the two teams’ official Web sites.)

Notable American Flyers (who are expected to play)

James van Riemsdyk (winger) – Middletown, New Jersey.
Matt Carle (defenseman) – Anchorage, Alaska.
Boucher (goalie) – Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

Notable American Bruins (who are expected to play)

Tim Thomas (goalie) – Flint, Michigan.

Again, this is a quality-over-quantity list. Both starting goalies are American, JVR is in the middle of a breakthrough playoff campaign and Carle’s had his struggles in the playoffs (his -7 rating indicates things haven’t always gone well), yet he’s still an important Philly defenseman who has been averaging 22 minutes per game in the playoffs. Obviously, all eyes were going to be on Boucher anyway, but now some fans might find more of a reason to root for him.

Thomas is the only prominent American on a Canadian-heavy Bruins roster. Boston might not have a ton of Americans on their roster, but Thomas is one of the best goalies in the NHL. He backed up Ryan Miller in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but if those games took place this year, he probably would have been the No. 1 guy.

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The natural question is: how are players reacting to the news of Osama bin Laden’s death? While Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference is Canadian, he’s made a connection with many fans in the Boston area and had perhaps the most interesting reaction to the news. Here’s what he told Joe Haggerty.

Obviously most of the Bruins players are Canadian-born and prefaced any statements with that little bit of info, but many guys like Andrew Ference have planted roots in the Boston area – and have become friends with many B’s fans actively serving their country and joining in the hunt for bin Laden over the last 10 years.

Ference said his mind was on those people Monday morning, and on others who wouldn’t be at rest until justice was served with the terrorist leader that set the 9/11 tragedy in motion.

“I texted my friend Lucas right away and said ‘did you guys get him’ because they’ve all been watching Bruins games over there,” said Ference, referencing a US Army Ranger he’s befriended from Massachusetts. “We’ve been keeping tabs with them, and I know he’d been out for a couple of days because he told me they were going to ‘go out hunting for bad guys.’

“I texted him right away. He was excited because he said there were a lot of sleepless nights searching for [Bin Laden]. I’m really proud of those guys, you know? I didn’t feel it myself, but knowing them and how they put their butts on the line for us. To get a victory like that is pretty cool.”

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.