Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville has made some substantial tweaks in the 2014 Western Conference finals, with some working out against the Los Angeles Kings and some providing a minimal impacts. He raised a few eyebrows on Sunday by inserting Kris Versteeg back into the lineup.
Michal Rozsival also drew back into the Blackhawks mix tonight.
Versteeg had a flat-out disastrous Game 5. He made a mistake that opened the door for at least one Kings goal and another chance or two without providing much of an offensive burst.
The 28-year-old found himself glued to the bench after a second-period Dustin Brown goal despite the game hitting a second overtime and then was a healthy scratch in Game 6.
It’s a bit surprising to see him back in the lineup for such a big game, even if he’s replacing a nondescript player like Sheldon Brookbank. A quick search of “Versteeg” produces some optimism:
… Along with some pessimism:
We’ll see if Versteeg makes an impact tonight (one way or another).
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.
—Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta
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.
The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks will face-off in Game 2 on Sunday night. You can catch the game on NBCSN (8:00 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports Live Extra app.
The Sharks used a five-goal third period to squash the Predators in the opening game of the best-of-seven series. Game 2 at the Sharks Tank should be a whole lot of fun.
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Here’s some reading material to get you ready for the game:
—Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1
—Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1
—Are there similarities between the ’14 Sharks and ’16 Ducks?
The St. Louis Blues won’t be thrilled with the way they played in the third period, but in the end, they did just enough to come away with a 4-3 overtime win over the Dallas Stars in Game 2. The Blues’ win means that the series will head to St. Louis tied 1-1.
The Stars opened the scoring in the first period, but the Blues responded by scoring three unanswered goals (Patrik Berglund, Joel Edmundson, Troy Brouwer) on five shots. Stars coach Lindy Ruff had seen enough from starter Kari Lehtonen at that point. He yanked Lehtonen in favor of Antti Niemi at the start of the second period.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the second period, but things got crazy in the third.
With his team still trailing 3-1, Mattias Janmark split Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko before scoring a great goal.
Moments after Janmark’s goal, Brian Elliott took a Jason Spezza blast off the mask. Elliott was shaken up on the play (he even lost one of his contact lenses), but he did stay in the game.
Stars captain Jamie Benn (surprise, surprise) leveled the score by burying a goal by Brian Elliott with under three minutes in regulation.
Like they did during their first round series against Chicago, the Blues took some time to regroup before finding a way to get the job done.
The Blues’ power play went back to work after Antoine Roussel took his third penalty of the game. That’s when the birthday boy, David Backes, came through.
That’s a nice way to celebrate your 32nd birthday.
Game 3 goes Tuesday night in St. Louis.