Sidney Crosby

Five Q’s: Penguins-Senators preview

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Will Tomas Vokoun still be the man?

It was hard to imagine Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma not going back to the 36-year-old backup that won Games 5 and 6 versus the Islanders after regular starter Marc-Andre Fleury stumbled rather badly. Vokoun stopped all but three of the 69 shots he faced, registering a save percentage of .957. Fleury, on the other hand, finished the first round with a .891 save percentage. If Bylsma still feels his best chance of winning the Stanley Cup is with Fleury, or if there’s a sense of loyalty there, he can always wait for Vokoun to slip up. And if Vokoun doesn’t slip up, all the better.

Can the Penguins get out of their end?

When Pittsburgh escaped Long Island, Pens captain Sidney Crosby said his team needed to do a better job of breaking out of its own end of the ice. That’s mostly on the defensemen, but it also falls on the forwards to help the blue-liners by being in better position to receive passes. If the Sens are smart, they’ll be getting in hard on the forecheck and trying to force turnovers. Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and company will have to manage the puck better than they did in the first round.

Will Matt Cooke be a target?

Or, do most Senators — unlike their owner — feel he didn’t intentionally injure Erik Karlsson back in February? Maybe it won’t even matter. According to Crosby, the Cooke-Karlsson narrative is one that could quickly become a distant memory. “You’ve got to win games,” said Crosby. “There are always storylines in a playoff series. This one’s easy because of what happened, but there’ll be something else after Game 1. It’s the playoffs.”

Will Jason Spezza be back?

Ottawa’s leading scorer from last year didn’t make the trip to Pittsburgh as he continues to rehab from back surgery. It’s possible he could play at some point in the series, but there’s no timeline for his return. “I want to play, I want to back out there,” he said on Sunday. “I don’t want to have any pain. I wish I could the play the next game. It’s all going to be about how I respond. I’ve got to push myself. That’s why we’re really going to try and push forward in the next three days. It might tell me that it’s not time to play and it might respond real well, but I would be lying if I tried to give you a straight answer (on a return date).”

Pens’ power play or Sens’ penalty kill?

Led by the likes of Crosby, Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and James Neal, Pittsburgh boasted the NHL’s second-best power play (24.7%) during the regular season and scored seven times with the man advantage versus the Islanders. Ottawa, though, had the league’s top-ranked PK in 2013 (88.0%), helped in large part by the great goaltending it received from Craig Anderson, Robin Lehner, and Ben Bishop.

For all the second-round playoff previews, click here.

Related: Pens stick with Vokoun for Game 1 vs. Ottawa

PHT Morning Skate: Sharks name stray cat after captain Joe Pavelski

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–The stray cat that ran onto the ice prior to Game 1 between the Sharks and Preds has been named after Joe Pavelski. (Associated Press)

–Speaking of that black cat, here’s a mountain of pucks shaped like the cat. (The Score)

–When Lukas Head was younger, he played with Steven Stamkos and P.K. Subban. Here’s his story. (Toronto Star)

–Watch the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Stars and Blues. (Top)

–A look behind the scenes of the NHL draft lottery. (Canadian Press)

–Two-time Olympic gold medalist Sharon Szabados loves curing and the Oilers and she was forced to make a tough choice on Saturday. (Sportsnet)

Pascal Dupuis, who was named one of the Masterton Trophy finalists, is adjusting to retirement. (NHL.com)

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