2014winterclassic

Five highlights from the 2013-14 NHL schedule

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On Friday, the NHL released its 2013-14 regular-season schedule and we here at PHT (okay, it’s just me) have identified five of the biggest highlights.

Click here for the full 2013-14 NHL schedule

1) Six Outdoor Games

These contests will fall under three umbrellas: the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series (four games), the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (one game) and the Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic (one game).

In chronological order, here’s when they’ll be played:

Jan. 1 — Toronto vs. Detroit at Michigan Stadium (Winter Classic)

Jan. 25 — Anaheim vs. Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium (Stadium Series)

Jan. 26 — New York Rangers vs. New Jersey at Yankee Stadium (Stadium Series)

Jan. 29 — New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders at Yankee Stadium (Stadium Series)

Mar. 1 — Pittsburgh vs. Chicago at Soldier Field (Stadium Series)

Mar. 2 — Ottawa vs. Vancouver at BC Place (Heritage Classic)

2) Opening night

Three games will be played on Tuesday, Oct. 1, beginning with the first contest of the year — a historic Original Six matchup between Toronto and Montreal.

That’ll be followed by Chicago vs. Washington at the United Center — featuring the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony — and capped off with Edmonton at Winnipeg in the final game of the evening.

Of note, you can catch the ‘Hawks-Caps game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET).

3) Closing weekend

Breaking from the “Super Saturday” theme of having all 30 teams play on the final day of the regular season, the NHL has opted to load up the final weekend — Saturday, Apr. 12 and Sunday, Apr. 13.

Saturday will feature 18 teams participating in nine games, while Sunday will have 20 teams partaking in 10 games.

Of note, the final game of the regular season will take place in Phoenix, as the Coyotes host the Stars at 9 p.m. ET.

4) Return of the Thanksgiving Showdown

This year’s schedule features the return of the league’s annual Black Friday game, as the Bruins will take on the Rangers at TD Garden in a day-after-Thanksgiving matinee (1 p.m. ET.)

The event began in 2011 (played between the Bruins and Red Wings) but was canceled last season due to the lockout. The Bruins and Rangers were slated to participate in the 2012 event.

5) The Olympic Break

The NHL will play 1,230 games this year, but none during a 16-day break from Feb. 9-25, during which NHLers will participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

This will mark the fifth consecutive winter games the NHL has participated in. Involvement dates back to the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, the first in which professional players were allowed to take part.

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.