Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (10) scores goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the shootout of an NHL hockey game Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, in Dallas. The Blackhawks won 2-1. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

NHL on NBCSN: Can battered, slumping Stars rise above Blackhawks?

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars at the United Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the team’s website that Tyler Seguin (concussion-like symptoms) might only end up missing a couple days. Still, in the likely event that he’s not available tonight, he will be sorely missed.

Dallas is 1-2-2 in its last five games and the Chicago Blackhawks are just about the last team a battered and slumping squad wants to face.

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The Blackhawks have shown no signs of fatigue after capturing the Stanley Cup. In fact they lead the league with a 20-4-4 record and are the hottest team right now with six straight victories on the road.

Everything seems to be clicking for the Blackhawks right now, from 24-year-old rookie goaltender Antti Raanta to Duncan Keith, who led all defensemen in points last month with 16 in 15 games. On top of that, they had five forwards that found the back of the net at least five times in November. The Stars only had one guy that could say the same, and he’s the one in their sickbay.

That puts more pressure on Jamie Benn to carry a Stars offense that has been middle-of-the-road this season. The problem is that Benn has been cold during Dallas’ recent five-game slump, with just an assist and minus-four rating.

Even still, Dallas can’t be overlooked. Chicago has beaten the Stars twice this season, but in their last contest on Friday, Dallas held on for 11 shootout rounds before finally conceding defeat.

The key is Kari Lehtonen, who is arguably one of the most underrated goaltenders in the NHL. When he’s at his best, the Stars have a fighting chance regardless of their opponent or even the availability of their top sniper.

The Stars will also have plenty of motivation, given that they’re already six points out of a playoff spot. They know if they continue to slip the standings, the odds of them staging a comeback in the highly competitive Western Conference will start to become very daunting.

Sometimes the difference between a playoff squad and a lottery team is how the players respond when one of their best is sidelined. So perhaps tonight’s game will be telling.

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.