Chicago Blackhawks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Three

Saad isn’t stressed about contract talks with Chicago

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As much as the near-league-wide jealousy of the Chicago Blackhawks come from watching elite talents like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, there’s also that contingent that winces at the fact that they have up-and-comers like Brandon Saad commanding less than an $800K cap hit.

Of course, Saad faces a golden opportunity to make much more than that. His current deal expires after the 2014-15 season. While that uncertainty could stand as stressful, he seems pretty easy-going about it, at least if he’s being honest to CSNChicago.com.

“Obviously it would be nice to get it done and have that out of the way, I guess, instead of focusing it on the year. But if it doesn’t happen there’s not much you can do. You play the season,” Saad said. “Hopefully it happens during the year and, if not, next summer. So we still have quite a bit of time to get it done, and we’ll see when it happens.”

Saad will turn 22 early next season (Oct. 27), so he’ll be a restricted free agent for some time, limiting some of his leverage as far as this next contract is concerned.

Even so, he could really drive up his value with a strong 2014-15 campaign. Saad scored 19 goals and 47 points in 78 games last season and was even more impressive in the postseason, collecting 16 points in 19 playoff games. If he can stick on a line with Patrick Kane – certainly a possibility after all the promise seen with a combo alongside Andrew Shaw – he could really enjoy a breakthrough year.

Really, Saad might be wise to play through the season. After all, even Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman admitted that “we haven’t seen the best” of what he could do.

Bowman must have conflicting feelings about this situation. Watching Saad progress could be a thrill, yet with dual $10.5 million cap hits kicking in for Kane and Toews beginning in 2015-16, a big hike from Saad may really smart.

Then again, maybe it’s best just to follow Saad’s lead: “All that stuff will take care of itself.”

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.