James O'Brien

Nick Foligno

Foligno returns for Blue Jackets on Tuesday

Who better to respond to John Tortorella’s latest round of critiques – this time toward Columbus’ veteran players – than the Blue Jackets’ captain?

That’s the opportunity on Tuesday night, as Nick Foligno is slated to return after missing the past three games with an undisclosed injury.

David Clarkson appears to be the odd man out with Foligno coming back.

It won’t be easy by any stretch for Foligno and the Blue Jackets as they host the dangerous Dallas Stars in Columbus tonight. Then again, sometimes generating a dramatic achievement is the best way to break out of a funk, right?

More on the blundering Blue Jackets

This letdown of a season falls on management

Tortorella deems the team “weak mentally.”

The Ryan Johansen mess

NHL on NBCSN: Predators at Blues in Central skirmish

St. Louis Blues' Colton Parayko (55) reaches for the puck with Nashville Predators' Filip Forsberg (9), of Sweden, during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)

The Central Division remains every bit as cruel and competitive as expected so far in 2015-16, and NBCSN audiences get a chance to see how deep this group really is on Tuesday night.

You can see the game on TV and/or via NBC Sports Live Extra online.

Blues above, for now

The second-ranked Blues hold 48 standings points after playing 38 games, a position that’s more tenuous when you weigh certain factors.

While they’ve generally been on a roll (6-2-0 in their last eight games), the Stars blanked them 3-0 on Sunday, so this could be a slightly angry group.

Nashville knocking

Nashville is all the way down in fifth place in the Central, yet tonight’s game could really make for a jogjam.

The Predators have 42 standings points – six fewer than the Blues – but hold two games in hand over St. Louis. They’ve won three of four contests, including an impressive 5-3 showing against the Rangers from last night. Nashville could make the battle for the Central’s second and third seeds pretty crowded with a win.

Peter Laviolette’s bunch will be forced to scratch and claw this month, as they play three straight in the road starting tonight and seven of eight on the road. They only see three home dates through the month of January.

Desire and fatigue

In short, the Predators come into this one a bit tired but also with plenty of hunger.

“I think when we’re a team that brings emotion to the game, we’re a different team,” Mike Ribeiro told NHL.com. “We play with more energy to our game, and we’re just faster at getting pucks, we’re forechecking, we’re creating turnovers. It’s just hard to bring that every night, so you have to find a way to motivate yourself.”

There’s a strong chance that the most motivated team will win this one tonight.

PHT Morning Skate: Vinik ‘absolutely’ thinks Bolts will sign Stamkos

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Evander Kane played as he wished on Monday, but he was robbed by a great Braden Holtby save and took a puck to the face. You can see that latter moment in the video above.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik seems pretty confident that Steven Stamkos will eventually sign a long-term contract with the team. (Tampa Bay Times)

Advanced stats apparently smile upon the Penguins and Panthers. (The Hockey News)

Does Edmonton represent Zack Kassian‘s last chance in the NHL? (Sportsnet)

Ranking the top 10 players in World Juniors history. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

The Los Angeles Kings had a little fun with this one.

Toffoli, Kopitar, Quick shine as Kings blast Canucks


The Los Angeles Kings enjoyed enough standout performances on Monday that it’s tough to single out one player.

So, instead, let’s list the most outstanding outputs in the Kings’ 5-0 win against the Vancouver Canucks.

(The highlights clip above hits the high notes nicely, by the way.)

  • Tyler Toffoli earned the second hat trick of his NHL career. He also generated the game-winner via his opening tally. He now has 17 goals in 2015-16.

  • Anze Kopitar may have enjoyed the best overall night of any Kings skater, as he generated four assists and was quite the all-around performer:

  • Jonathan Quick didn’t just generate a shutout, he made a little bit of history along the way.

As great as the Kings were, this was at times an embarrassing night for the Canucks. Sven Baertschi‘s upper-body ailment adds injury to all the insults.

Video: Matt Duchene’s nifty goal, Nathan MacKinnon’s hat trick

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It’s been a season of hot and cold streaks for Matt Duchene a few months in, so the Colorado Avalanche must hope that this is a sign of another torrid run.

Either way, it’s a burst of genius, as Duchene spun and then put his 17th goal of the season by bouncing it off of San Jose Sharks defenseman Paul Martin.

You can see the goal in the video above, while My Regular Face provides a helpful angle on this GIF.

That’s a heck of a way to end a four-game scoring drought.

Update: Nathan MacKinnon generated a hat trick in stealing the show from Duchene as Colorado beat San Jose 6-3.