James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Flu seems to be in the water for Sharks with Vlasic out this time

The San Jose Sharks have already been struggling to score goals and win games. Now they’re also fighting off the sniffles.

Chris Tierney missed Monday’s game with the flu, now Marc-Edouard Vlasic is missing tonight’s contest against the Minnesota Wild (in progress, on NBCSN) with an illness.

CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz wonders if a bug is going around, and he’s likely not the only one.

With Jannik Hansen hurt – likely injured, at least? – the Sharks are trying to break their three-game skid with a group that’s far from 100 percent.

Video: Pens’ Guentzel suffers concussion from hit by Sabres’ Ristolainen


Sidney Crosby showed a moment of brilliance and, in contrast, a moment of bitterness during Tuesday’s Penguins – Sabres game, but it wasn’t the only nasty moment.

Crosby’s young linemate Jake Guentzel was clearly struggling after a hit by Buffalo blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen during the first period. Ristolainen received a five-minute major and game misconduct for interference on that play.

You can see that hard hit in the video above.

The Penguins have already been battling a ridiculous slew of injuries, and it sure seemed like Guentzel was dazed. Not good.

This game means a ton more to Pittsburgh than it does to Buffalo, yet the physical play and decent array of scoring chances makes it seem like both teams are quite engaged.

Update: Bad news for the Penguins, as it appears that Guentzel suffered a concussion.

VIDEO: Crosby scores 41st goal, spears O’Reilly below the belt


For the most part – not with everyone, but with many – gripes about the more … um, abrasive side of Sidney Crosby‘s game have subsided. Every now and then, the superstar Pittsburgh Penguin shows that less appealing aspect, however.

Tuesday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres really put the opposite ends of the spectrum on display.

On one hand, you have an ugly moment, as Crosby appeared to spear Ryan O'Reilly in the groin (see video above).

On the other hand, Crosby scored his 41st goal of 2016-17 in dramatic fashion, blazing by the Sabres for what was more or less a one-on-all tally:

You may notice that “ROR” was on the ice for that moment.

WATCH LIVE: San Jose Sharks at Minnesota Wild


For all we know, both the Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks could look back at their current slumps as mere bumps in the road.

There’s no denying that each team could use a boost right now, however. The Sharks’ offense has been drying up as they’ve lost three straight games, while Minnesota’s Central Division title hopes are dwindling rapidly amid a five-game skid.

Even so, there’s plenty of talent on hand here, with scorers who can make for some really captivating hockey when they’re at their best.

You can watch on NBCSN, online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Sabres GM takes blame for lack of ‘stud defenseman,’ talks expansion draft


Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray occasionally gets grief on social media about seemingly being a bit awkward with the media, but he provided all sorts of interesting nuggets to WGR 550’S “Schopp and the Bulldog” on Tuesday.

Some of the most interesting commentary revolved around how the Sabres are handling the expansion draft and why Murray believes the team hasn’t taken that next step into the postseason yet.

“We haven’t been able to pick that stud defenseman yet and that falls right on me and on the scouting staff that’s under me,” Murray said.

Going further, he stated that he believed Buffalo boasted a blueline good enough to make the playoffs, but maybe not contend for a Stanley Cup. Interestingly, he pointed to the acquisition of Dmitri Kulikov as a particular disappointment.

(Kulikov’s contract is expiring, so that might explain why he was willing to be so frank about the blueliner falling short of expectations as a “top-three” defenseman.)

Speaking of defensemen, Murray acknowledged that he’ll most likely protect three blueliners and seven forwards for the expansion draft. His comment about GM George McPhee not prying loose a key player is worth a chuckle:

Almost sounds a little seedy, maybe even some hockey espionage, even?

Anyway, WGR 550 has more if you want further insight from the Sabres’ GM.