James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Once again, Michael Matheson with an unlikely assist

It’s possible that a substantial chunk of hockey fans are unaware of Michael Matheson, but the Florida Panthers defenseman might not be anonymous to fanatics much longer.

Earlier this season, Matheson made a hit and great feed for the kind of goal that would make video game players grumble about “how that never happens.”

He blew some minds again on Tuesday, sending a pass from behind the net (and between his legs) to Kyle Rau for a goal against the Montreal Canadiens:

Nicely done.

This game presents multiple examples of players showing bewildering skill in the blink of an eye, as you can also see from this impressive Max Pacioretty goal:

Hot take: Patches can still score.

Video: Steven Stamkos won’t return from lower-body injury

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With an early 2-0 lead, it seemed like Tuesday started well for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Detroit Red Wings.

Steven Stamkos contributed to that edge with a goal, but that excitement’s turned to concern as the team’s captain might have suffered an injury.

As you can see in the video below, Stamkos left the ice under some duress. It looks like he was favoring his right leg:

Update: There’s no word on how severe the issue is, but the Lightning announced that he won’t return to the game and label Stamkos’ issue as a lower-body injury.

GMs mixed about blindside hits, but maybe shootouts get spruced up?

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Hey, the NHL might take its time with policing different forms of hits, but the league’s always interested in tweaking what happens after regulation.

From going to 3-on-3 overtime to eliminating the scourge that was the spin-o-rama, those changes seem to catch the eyes of GMs and others. So, it’s not too surprising that the league seems to be at an impasse when it comes to the controversial blindside hit Nazem Kadri delivered, yet they might change the “skills competition” thanks to the latest GM meetings.

“This isn’t a meeting where you make fundamental changes,” Gary Bettman said, via NHL.com. “It’s really more of an update.”

So while TSN’s Pierre LeBrun believes that the “hawks and doves” are split on what to do with blindside hits, St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong’s shootout tweak might be more likely to gain some traction.

Specifically, Armstrong looks to take a cue from the Sochi Olympics, when T.J. Oshie put on quite the display by taking shootout attempt after shootout attempt for the U.S. against Russia.

Armstrong’s tweak would allow teams to keep trotting out the same shooter Oshie-style after the first three shooters for each team.

Want more regarding those discussions? NHL.com’s Dan Rosen runs it down in this video.

WATCH LIVE: Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red Wings

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When you think of NHL rivalries, Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings might not be on the forefront, but it’s been proven that these two teams just don’t like each other.

Meeting in the first round of the playoffs two seasons in a row can do that to you.

To some extent, it’s that involuntary passing of the torch that happens in sports; the Bolts want to rise, yet the Red Wings don’t want to give up their spot. Maybe that explains at least some of the tension between these two teams.

Importantly, they also happen to bring plenty of skill and smarts to the table alongside that mutual disdain, so this should be a fun one on NBCSN. Check out that game online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the live stream, including some lead-in coverage before the game.

While Rangers keep rolling, are Oilers finally facing adversity?

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The New York Rangers’ side of the story from their game against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday was almost boring.

Yeah, Antti Raanta stealing the show – and reminding us that the Rangers might just have two very strong goalies – was an interesting wrinkle. Still, you can argue for “same old, same old” in the best of ways for New York in its 3-1 win.

Michael Grabner scored again and then again. Their goaltending was once-again strong. They’ve now gone 10-2-0 in their last 12 games. Maybe the Rangers won’t be able to ride these high percentages all season long, but with each passing game, it’s getting tougher to question Alain Vigneault & Co.

Instead, let’s go deeper on the team the Rangers beat on Sunday.

The Edmonton Oilers are now on a three-game losing streak. They’ve only won one game in regulation in November. They’re now 2-5-1 in their last eight games.

And while you can give them some leeway (this losing streak comes against the Penguins, Stars and Rangers), their upcoming slate could wither away much of their youthful optimism.

Tuesday: at Anaheim
Thursday: at Los Angeles
Saturday: at Dallas
Monday: vs. Chicago
Wednesday: at Colorado
Friday: at Arizona

This rendition of the Oilers has passed some challenging tests, and even when they’ve failed, they’ve mostly done so with their heads held high.

This upcoming stretch might be the biggest “sink or swim” moment for the Oilers so far in 2016-17.