James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Kings continue to heal up with Gaborik off IR

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It’s easy to dismiss the Los Angeles Kings’ improving outlook by noting that they’re still vulnerable with Jonathan Quick out, but hey, they are getting healthier.

While it isn’t a guarantee that he’ll actually play against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight, the Kings must still be heartened to see veteran winger Marian Gaborik activated off of injured reserve.

Along with fighting through games without Quick, the Kings have had to improvise without the likes of Gaborik and Anze Kopitar so far in 2016-17.

Their 11-9-1 record won’t blow anyone’s mind, but considering their current four-game winning streak, there are signs of progress.

This weekend begins an interesting stretch for the Kings. They face three challenging home games in their next four games and must stock up points with a brutal nine-game road trip looming from Dec. 13-29.

Here’s the upcoming schedule:

Tonight: vs. Blackhawks
Wednesday: vs. Sharks
Thursday: at Coyotes
Dec. 4: vs. Canadiens
Dec. 8: vs. Hurricanes
Dec. 10: vs. Senators

They could certainly benefit from someone like Gaborik chipping in during that stretch, whether he’s good to go now or later.

Chad Johnson keeps making argument for Flames’ top job

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BOSTON (AP) Chad Johnson made 35 saves and Alex Chiasson broke a tie at 7:05 of the third period in Calgary Flames’ 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night.

Coming off a 2-0 victory Wednesday night at Columbus, Johnson allowed only David Pastrnak‘s goal off a rebound at 5:55 of the third period.

Sam Bennett had a goal and an assist to help Calgary win for the third time in four games. Bennett set up winner with a backhand pass from behind the net right to Chiasson, who easily beat goalie Anton Khudobin as he scrambled to get back across.

Boston has lost three straight and four of five.

Khudobin, recalled Friday from Providence of the AHL after a brief conditioning assignment, stopped 27 shots in his first start since Oct. 22.

Khudobin needed to be sharp early as Calgary outshot Boston 13-5 in the first period and took a 1-0 lead on Bennett’s goal at 8:36.Bennett skated through a pair of Boston players outside the blue line and got in alone on Khudobin, beating him with a wrist shot.

It was the only goal of the game until Pastrnak knocked in a rebound during a scrum in front of Johnson 5:55 into the third. John-Michael Liles and Tim Schaller assisted on the goal, Boston’s first since Pastrnak scored with 11 seconds left in the first period Thursday night in a 3-1 loss at Ottawa.

The Bruins had an apparent goal disallowed 3:01 into the second after Patrice Bergeron intercepted a clearing attempt by Johnson and shot it in from the right corner. Johnson was scrambling to get up off the ice after being knocked down by Mark Giordano and the Flames challenged, getting the goal overturned after a video review showed Boston’s Brad Marchand interfered by knocking Giordano into his own goaltender.

Notes: Boston played its second straight game without D Zdeno Chara, who left Tuesday night’s loss to St. Louis early in the second period with an undisclosed lower-body injury. … The Bruins sent G Zane McIntyre to Atlanta of the ECHL. … Calgary LW Johnny Goudreau missed his sixth straight game with a broken finger. … Johnson hadn’t allowed a goal since Anthony Mantha scored for Detroit at 7:59 of the third period Sunday.

UP NEXT

Flames: At Philadelphia on Sunday night in the fifth of six games on the road.

Bruins: Host Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Win or lose, Connor McDavid keeps doing incredible things

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Even in defeat – astoundingly narrow defeat – Connor McDavid rarely fails to amaze.

McDavid generated a special night to help the Edmonton Oilers grab a point on Friday night, but the Arizona Coyotes must feel incredibly lucky to escape the evening with a 3-2 shootout win.

How close was it? Well, the Oilers captured McDavid’s near-overtime-goal perfectly in GIF form (see video here).

Absurd. But at this point, almost normal for McDavid.

This goal did count, however, and it serves as the latest example that No. 97’s speed rating would be an easy 99:

Honestly, even mundane moments seem more exciting when McDavid is involved:

Remarkable. With that, the Oilers’ three-game winning streak comes to an end. Still, even losses like these really make you wonder if we’ll be watching in awe of what McDavid can accomplish in the playoffs.

Video: Should Stars’ winning goal have counted or was it icing?

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Few would argue that the Vancouver Canucks are a great team, but they’ve suffered some pretty tough losses. Friday’s 2-1 defeat to the Dallas Stars ranks up there.

It also might fuel the latest debate for hockey fans who love to pour over every rule debate: are officials given too much latitude when it comes to icing?

The Canucks certainly didn’t feel great about icing being waived off on this goal by Esa Lindell, which ultimately stood as the game-winner for Dallas:

With that, Vancouver falls to 8-11-2 while the Stars move up to a strange-looking record of 9-8-5.

Considering Dallas’ upcoming four-game road trip against the Blues, Red Wings, Penguins and Avalanche, wins like these could come in very handy.

Meanwhile, losses like these play a role in telling the story of the Canucks’ sad 2016-17 season.

Red Wings salvage OT win, but Howard is hurt

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With each passing day, it feels like virtually every NHL team is vulnerable to reports that boil down to “That win will cost you.”

The Detroit Red Wings experienced that mixture of good and bad news on Friday.

On the bright side, they won a back-and-forth game against the New Jersey Devils by a score of 5-4 thanks to Mike Green‘s overtime-winner:

So that’s good. Now, for the “Yeah, but …”

Jimmy Howard suffered a lower-body injury in this game, and according to reporters including the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James, Jeff Blashill believes he’ll miss a week “for sure.” With that, Jared Coreau was called up from the AHL.

It’s nice for the Red Wings to get a hard-fought win, one that moves them to 10-10-1, particularly against a team that – for all we know – could jostle with Detroit for one of the final East playoff spots.

Losing Howard won’t make it any easier for them to stay alive in the East bubble, however.