James O'Brien

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

Video: Jimmy Howard, breaker of breakaways


So far, Jimmy Howard is playing like he wants his starting job back.

Shaking off a very early New York Rangers goal by Mika Zibanejad, Howard is looking sharp as of this writing, but no span tops the series of breakaway saves he made, which you can see in the video above.

Not long after that, the Detroit Red Wings tied the game 1-1 as Thomas Vanek is playing as if those waning days with the Minnesota Wild never even happened.

Even after that breakaway save run, Howard finished the second period with great stops. The two teams going into the final frame tied 1-1.

Video: Bob McKenzie’s updates on contract holdouts

It sounds like Hampus Lindholm and the Anaheim Ducks really aren’t that far apart money-wise on a new deal. Unfortunately, for a budget team like Anaheim, every dollar counts.

Part of the slow-down might come down to trading Cam Fowler, for all we know.

Also … what’s going on with Jacob Trouba and the Winnipeg Jets?

There are some intriguing contract holdout situations occurring in the NHL right now, and Bob McKenzie appeared on NBCSN to share the latest on Trouba, Fowler, Lindholm and other key considerations.

Watch the great insider spill details in the video above.

Brent Burns is on a beastly pace


With a whopping eight points in four games, Brent Burns was the NHL’s leading scorer headed into Wednesday’s duo of contests.

Playing three games in four nights only seemed to feed the beast. After generating a goal to start his 2016-17 season on Oct. 12, Burns really caught fire lately, including two goals and three assists between Monday and Tuesday.

And it’s not as if this is all dumb luck.

For one thing, Burns already laid down a precedent in 2015-16, scoring a ridiculous 75 points. Defensemen not named Erik Karlsson aren’t supposed to be able to light up the scoreboard like that in the modern NHL.

Yes, a 15 shooting percentage is a little high – particularly for a blueliner – but Burns is enough of a unique weapon that he could very well flirt with the kind of efficiency enjoyed by forwards.

Is Burns slated to score at his current two-points-per-game pace and hit 164? No, but it’s not totally outrageous to imagine the Wookie-like defenseman managing 82 points in as many games, health permitting.

His incredible start could very well be the natural progression from the leap he took last season, and it probably doesn’t hurt that he’s playing for a new contract (and so many pizzas!).

MORE: What will his next contract look like?

It’s astounding stuff, even if it’s easy to get distracted by the glorious weirdness of Burns’ life.

Just take a slice of it here, as Burns was seen walking around with a shirtless Joe Thornton. This image is currently featured on the San Jose Sharks official Twitter feed:

Naturally, Burns responded in a very, well … Burns way.

He’s regaled observers with his ridiculous black eye after facing Columbus and amused many with his stated desire to live in an RV.

Yes, there’s rarely a dull moment when Burns is involved. Just don’t forget that he’s doing great things on the ice, too.

In fact, he could enjoy a truly special season, one almost as unique as Burns himself.

Naturally, the best course of action is to enjoy his strong work on the ice and Paul Bunyan-like presence, which sometimes converge in beautiful ways:

Islanders bring up Ryan Pulock from AHL


NEW YORK (AP) The New York Islanders recalled defenseman Ryan Pulock on an emergency basis Wednesday from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League.

The 22-year-old Pulock had an assist and a plus-2 rating in Bridgeport’s first two games of the season. Last season, He had two goals and two assists in 15 games with the Islanders last season and seven goals and 17 assists in 51 games with the Sound Tigers.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound defenseman, from Dauphin, Manitoba, was selected 15th overall by the Islanders in the 2013 draft.

Rangers get Kevin Klein back vs. Red Wings


The New York Rangers defense is getting a little healthier.

While Dan Girardi is still banged up, it looks like Kevin Klein is good to go against the Detroit Red Wings in tonight’s Wednesday Rivalry Night matchup.

Perhaps Alain Vigneault might have a curveball up his sleeve, but at the moment, Dylan McIlrath seems like the probable loser in a game of defenseman musical chairs with Klein returning.

Klein does a little bit of everything for the Rangers, including putting together strangely identical scoring seasons of nine goals and 17 assists in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.

It’s also important to note that he sometimes sports the sort of facial hair that’s reminiscent of a villain in a silent film. Hard-hitting analysis.

Anyway, Klein is likely to give the Rangers a subtle boost against Detroit, at least if he isn’t too rusty.