SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 26: Bracken Kearns #38 and Andrew Desjardins #10 of the San Jose Sharks skates after the puck against Jonathan Quick #32 and Trevor Lewis #22 of the Los Angeles Kings in Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 26, 2013 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Playoffs Tonight: It’s do or die for Sharks, Kings

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Both Western Conference series have been pushed to Game 7, so the participants in the Western Conference finals will be determined over the next two contests.

Los Angeles hosts San Jose (9:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)
Series tied at 3-3

The Sharks and Kings were two of the most successful teams at home during the regular season and both of these squads have perfect records at their respective arenas during the 2013 playoffs.

That works in the Kings’ favor going into this contest, but there are exceptions to trends. After three failed attempts to beat the Kings at Staples Center, San Jose can still advance with just one road victory.

That’s not hard to envision happening. Most of the games in this series have been decided by just one goal and could have easily turned out differently.

Plus there might be a separate factor that negates Los Angeles’ home-ice advantage. Despite being the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Kings are largely inexperienced with Game 7s. As a franchise, Los Angeles hasn’t played in one since 2002 and overall the Sharks’ projected lineup has participated in 31 career Game 7s to the Kings’ 15.

“When you’re road hockey, you’re always playing in a Game 7, right?” Kings captain Dustin Brown, who is among those that will be playing in his first Game 7, told LA Kings Insider. “So I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I know a lot of other guys are looking forward to the opportunity of playing in a game like [tonight].”

On the other end of the spectrum, Sharks forward Scott Gomez is getting ready to participate in his 10th career Game 7.

“The main thing is, what I was told, is that you can’t change your game. Do what got you here,” Gomez told CSN Bay Area. “Obviously, emotions are going to be running high.”

That might be especially true for Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who seems to be getting frustrated with the Sharks rough play. So far that hasn’t been enough to give the Sharks much of a noticeable edge, but if Quick loses his cool in this contest, it might end up costing the Kings this series.

Of course, in a contest like this, anyone that steps onto the ice could end up being the hero and any mistake could prove fatal.

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.