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Prized prospect Kreider could join Rangers this season

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Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports that Chris Kreider — the Rangers’ 2009 first-round pick that played for Team USA at the 2011 World Men’s Hockey Championships — could be making his NHL debut this season.

Brooks spoke with Rangers GM Glen Sather following the NHL trade deadline, during which Sather alluded to adding “people who are probably going to turn pro at the end of the school year” to the roster.

That seemed specifically directed at Kreider, who is in his junior year at Boston College (and, it must be mentioned, was one of the prospects Sather reportedly refused to part with during negotiations for Columbus’ Rick Nash.)

More, from The Post:

“Absolutely,” [Sather] said, when asked if he expects the 6-foot-3, 225-winger who presents an uncommon blend of size, speed, power and touch, to leave Boston College at the end of the season.

“Absolutely,” Sather repeated, when asked if he intends/expects to sign Kreider in time for him to play this season.

If the Rangers do sign the 20-year-old, the first year of Kreider’s three-year Entry Level contract would be burned regardless of whether he plays a single game for the Rangers or even is placed on the NHL roster.

That is not a deterrent for Sather. It could, however, be additional incentive for Kreider, who has taken an accelerated course load and who is dedicated to getting a degree, to leave school before graduating. The next collective bargaining agreement is certain to feature a more restrictive Entry Level system.

The possibility of bringing Kreider aboard is a big, somewhat unprecedented move as few players have made the leap from college hockey to the NHL in the same season. Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson pulled the trick in 2007 after his University of Michigan team was eliminated from western regionals, but he joined a pitiful Kings team (third-worst in the NHL) and only played five games.

Kreider’s situation would be far different.

If he goes directly to the NHL, Kreider would essentially join the Rangers on the eve of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Boston College is ranked No. 1 in the country and has a good shot of making the Frozen Four, which will be played Apr. 5-7 — the same weekend the NHL regular season ends.

That said, Kreider is unique in that he has experience playing with professionals. He notched three points in seven games at the 2011 WHC playing on a U.S. team featuring Paul Gaustad, Mike Komisarek, Blake Wheeler, James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler and Rangers teammates Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan.

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.