Tomas Rolinek, Jaromir Jagr

Jagr says it was ‘important’ to play for Devils after Kovalchuk retirement

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At 41, Jaromir Jagr wasn’t surprised to find just a handful of suitors for the upcoming campaign.

But that’s not to say one didn’t stand out above the rest.

On Tuesday, Jagr officially signed with New Jersey — a one-year deal with $2 million in base salary that could hit $4 million with bonuses — and said it was “important” to play for the Devils.

“Not many teams are looking for a forward my age, especially with the salary cap going down,” Jagr said, as per NHL.com. “My agent [Petr Svoboda] asked if I would be willing to play for New Jersey and I was. I talked to Lou [Lamoriello] even before [Ilya] Kovalchuk retired and after he retired.

“I felt it was even more important for me to play on the Devils roster [after Kovalchuk’s NHL retirement].”

Kovalchuk, who stunningly retired from the NHL with 14 years and $77 million remaining on his contract, will be tough to replace. He led the team in goals in his first two seasons and, during the 2011-12 campaign, scored 83 points in 77 games and 19 in 23 playoff games as New Jersey made a surprising run to the Stanley Cup finals.

That said, Jagr might be better equipped to replace Kovalcuk than most figure.

For one, No. 68 actually had the superior 2013 campaign, scoring 35 points to Kovalchuk’s 31 (granted, Kovalchuk played in eight fewer games).

There’s also the not-so-small fact that Jagr played a marathon season altogether, and showed great resilience despite turning 41 in February.

“I know people will say we had a shortened season last year, but it was the longest season for me,” Jagr said. “Counting my time in Europe and the NHL regular season and playoffs, I played in the most games ever in one season.”

Jagr played 34 games with Kladno in the Czech league and another 34 with Dallas before getting dealt to Boston. From there, he appeared in 11 regular season contests with the Bruins, then 22 playoff games.

So, 101 games all told.

As such, the sure-fire Hall of Famer figures he’s in better shape heading into 2013-14, which should be a breeze compared to last year.

“That’s the most games I’ve ever played,” he explained. “(This) is going to be a short season.”

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.