James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Carrie Underwood takes shot at empty seats for Ducks in Game 1

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So far in Game 1, the Anaheim Ducks might not experience a ton of home-ice advantage for a simple reason: their fans seem to still be getting to the building.

With playoff hockey being a sensation in Nashville (or “Smashville”), Carrie Underwood took an opportunity to praise the Predators’ crowds at the Ducks’ expense.

Here’s what Mike Fisher‘s wife had to say in noticing some – at least temporarily – empty seats to begin the Western Conference Final:

Is that trash talk or smash talk?

Anyway, every indication is that traffic is the main culprit (rather than, say, indifference or a quick turnaround from rounds two to three).

Secret is out – ‘The Edmonton Oilers are no joke anymore’

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EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) The Edmonton Oilers cleaned out their lockers Friday after their turnaround season, knowing that the newfound success changes everything.

“Coming in next year, it has to be a different mindset,” captain Connor McDavid said. “We’re not going to surprise any teams anymore. Teams know we’re a good hockey team and they’ll have to be ready to play.”

Forward Patrick Maroon was more succinct.

“The team is for real now,” he said. “Everyone knows the Edmonton Oilers are no joke anymore.”

After 10 consecutive seasons of unrelenting mediocrity, and no playoff appearances, the Oilers established themselves this season as one of the NHL’s top-tier franchises, tying for seventh overall in the regular season and taking the Anaheim Ducks to seven games in the Western Conference semifinals.

They will be the favorites to win the Pacific Division next year, with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl down the middle, shutdown defensemen Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson on the blue line and Cam Talbot in net.

McDavid, whose rookie year was cut short by a broken clavicle, had a breakout season. He won the points title with 100 points, scoring 30 goals, and is the front-runner for the Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP.

More

Big decisions remain for Oilers

Optimism even moments after painful Game 7 loss

WATCH LIVE: Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks – Game 1

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If you feel like there’s been a quick turnaround between the second and third rounds, you wouldn’t be wrong. And you might be a member of the Anaheim Ducks.

While the Ducks dispatched the Edmonton Oilers in a Game 7 on Wednesday, the Nashville Predators were resting up with multiple extra days off. Will Ryan Getzlaf be able to continue his red-hot run or will a fresh P.K. Subban and Pekka Rinne be too much tonight? We’ll see a nice battle of rest and rust on NBCSN on Friday.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks

Time: 9:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Victor Hedman suffered a nasty cut near eye (and it could have been worse)

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It’s weird to say that Victor Hedman was “lucky” to bleed profusely and need four stitches for a wound on Friday, but … yes, Hedman was probably lucky.

Sweden dominated Italy 8-1 today at the World Hockey Championship, as you’d likely expect. The hockey world gasped more at Hedman’s wound – caused thanks to a check that broke his visor but somehow spared his eye – rather than the lopsided score.

Inside Tre Kronor has some great photos from the scene, where Hedman looks like he’s getting stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster or something. Here’s the moment when he was initially cut:

And here’s a couple gruesome shots of him getting stitched together.

Once the ewwws and gasps subside, the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman and his team likely breathed a sigh of relief. It could have been more than just a scare and a stinging wound.

What reportedly caused Sabres’ Kyle Okposo to be hospitalized

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About a month ago, word surfaced that Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo had been released from hospitalization. Now there are reports detailing what might have been ailing him.

Teammate William Carrier revealed that Okposo’s initial issue was a concussion, according to John Vogl of the Buffalo News by way of RDS.

Vogl also cites Sabres Prospects’ Kris Baker, who reports that Okposo was hospitalized because of an adverse reaction to medication he was taking to treat that concussion.

These aren’t official details from the Sabres, who haven’t provided a lot of information regarding Okposo’s condition.

If this is all true, it seems like mostly good news. A concussion is never something to take lightly – some can threaten a career – but Okposo was placed in intensive care, so there were even greater concerns regarding the 29-year-old’s health.

There’s no indication yet regarding when he might return to NHL competition. On the bright side, he has plenty of time to heal up during the summer, though considering the situation overall, he also might need to miss some time in 2017-18.