Chicago Blackhawks v Nashville Predators

Looking to make the leap: Jeremy Morin

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After spending the better part of four seasons riding the bus in the American Hockey League, Jeremy Morin will have every opportunity to be a regular with the Blackhawks in 2014-15.

Speaking to reporters at the NHL Draft in June, GM Stan Bowman said he expects Morin to make the leap to the NHL much like Ben Smith did last season.

Entering training camp, there are opportunities for budding prospects on both the right side of Chicago’s third line and the left side of the team’s fourth line.

Morin could slot in on either, and at a drastically smaller cap hit ($800,000) than say a Kris Versteeg ($2.2 million), Morin could win out in the numbers game as Chicago currently sits more than $2 million over the salary cap, per CapGeek.

The Blackhawks re-signed the left-winger to a new two-year, $1.6 million deal on June 27 following a 2013-14 campaign which saw him produce at a point-a-game pace (24 goals and 47 points in 47 games) in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs.

Morin also appeared in 24 regular season games for Chicago scoring five goals and 11 points, in part, while Bryan Bickell was sidelined with a knee injury. The 23-year-old appeared in two playoff games for the Blackhawks where he was held pointless.

“He’s been patient with us. Sometimes I know it’s tough to spend a couple years in the minors when you’re an NHL-ready player,” Bowman said. “Give him credit, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to. The only thing that was missing, was an opportunity. Now we’re giving him that opportunity, he’s going to be on the team.

“He’s hungry, he wants to prove what he can do, and he’s going to get the chance.”

The former second-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers (45th overall in 2009), Morin was acquired by the Blackhawks on June 24, 2010 as Chicago, fresh off its first Stanley Cup win since 1961, was in salary dump mode.

Chicago sent Akim Aliu, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel to Atlanta in exchange for Morin, the Thrashers’ first round (Kevin Hayes) and second round (Justin Holl) picks in 2010, which were acquired in a previous trade from the New Jersey Devils, as well as Marty Reasoner and Joey Crabb

Billed as a creative goal-scorer, Morin doesn’t shy away from the physical game. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound, Morin has 12 career AHL fights according to hockeyfights.com and racked up 121 penalty minutes during the 2011-12 season with the IceHogs.

Given that Chicago’s top six is all but set in stone, Morin won’t necessarily be relied on for his goal-scoring prowess. In order for him to stick with the big club this season, he will have to show his gritty, physical side in addition to his soft hands.

Related: Under Pressure: Brad Richards

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.

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.