MarianGaborik

Gaborik: Jackets will ‘leave everything out there’ in fight for playoffs

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The Columbus Blue Jackets — currently sitting 10th in the Western Conference, with 41 points — have a tall task ahead in trying to make the playoffs.

They’ll likely need to win six of their remaining eight games, six of which are on the road, where the Jackets are a lowly 5-11-2 this season.

Of course, the newest Jacket is looking at things more optimistically.

“We have eight games left,” Marian Gaborik told the Canadian Press. “We’re going to keep fighting ’till the end.

“We want to leave everything out there every game. Hopefully we can make it interesting to the end and fight for the playoffs.”

The Blue Jackets, who whipped the Sharks 4-0 last night, have a few days to sit and ponder their future.

They won’t play again until hosting St. Louis at Nationwide on Friday, and will then set on out the make-or-break portion of their season — a six-game road swing through Minnesota, Colorado, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose and Dallas.

All told, Columbus will play six road dates in 12 nights, including a tough Ducks-Kings back-to-back on Apr. 17/18.

According to Sports Club Stats, the Jackets currently hold a slim 7.6 percent chance of making the playoffs. It’s the reality after getting off to an NHL-worst 5-12-2 start, only to gain remarkable ground with a home stretch in March where they played nine of 10 in Columbus (going 8-0-2).

Now, Columbus needs to win tough games at the toughest time of the year.

But even if it doesn’t work out, director of hockey ops John Davidson says the experience has been invaluable.

“If we had kept going and gotten into a situation where there was no pressure on our team for the last six weeks of the season, that’s lost time,” he said. “Wherever this goes we’re going to — for sure — have gotten something out of it, and that’s just the fact that it’s a very good culture.

“It’s a very good locker room and it’s a team that’s developed because of playing pressure games down the stretch.”

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.