James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Kings win fifth straight, but Blackhawks go .500 on ‘Circus Trip’

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Not that long ago, games between the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings were all about which contender was thriving the most.

Both franchises are still doing a lot of things correctly, yet on nights like Saturday, the two squads feel a little closer to “survival mode.”

In what was sometimes a battle of attrition, the Kings managed to extend their winning streak to five games with a 2-1 overtime victory thanks to Jeff Carter‘s clutch tally:

Carter’s nice goal felt like a delayed reward for a Kings team that seemed to exert its will on the Blackhawks early on.

Through the first two periods, the Kings generated a 24-11 shots on goal differential, including a 13-4 edge in the opening frame. Chicago carried the play in the third, but ultimately Los Angeles managed to grind out that win.

It’s not all bad for the Blackhawks, mind you.

By carving out a standings point in this game, they managed a respectable 3-3-1 mark during their “Circus Trip.”

As mentioned earlier on Saturday, the Kings must carve out all the points they can muster right now, as they face a nine-game road trip starting in mid-December.

When they need to dig deep, they could do worse than to think of victories like these, even if they haven’t always been pretty.

Well, at least Larkin seemed to avoid injury in rough Red Wings loss

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This time around, this wasn’t a costly win for the Detroit Red Wings. They’ll instead settle for a costly standings point.

Maybe the best news it that, after a scare, it at least looks like Dylan Larkin avoided an injury in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

So far, the same cannot be said for Brendan Smith and Tyler Bertuzzi. While the Red Wings haven’t provided an update regarding either player yet, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan reports that Bertuzzi left the building in a walking boot and crutches thanks to this awkward fall:

Smith appeared to be injured after knee-to-knee contact with Phillip Danault.

While it’s disappointing for Detroit to lose after getting a lead on a contender like the Canadiens, the Red Wings deserve some credit for scraping points together. After a four-game losing streak, they’ve gone beyond regulation in three consecutive contests, winning twice.

At 10-10-2, there’s still some hope, assuming injuries don’t totally demoralize Detroit.

More: Their previous costly win involved an injury to Jimmy Howard.

Advantage: Matthews, Marner this time around vs. Ovechkin and Capitals

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So much for that goal drought.

After breaking through with two goals and one assist on Wednesday, Auston Matthews contributed to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ impressive 4-2 win against the Washington Capitals.

Matthews, James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri all generated their ninth goals of the 2016-17 season in the victory, breaking a three-game losing streak for the Maple Leafs. (Mitch Marner was great in his own right, collecting two assists.)

Among his many strengths, Matthews resembles other stars in generating the kind of offense that eventually makes negative narratives dissolve.

It was a pretty great night all-around for the Maple Leafs’ young guns, although William Nylander missed the game with an upper-body injury.

Speaking of injuries, that factor made this loss even more bitter for the Capitals.

Matt Niskanen left the game and did not return because of a lower-body injury; the team announced that an update may come tomorrow. With T.J. Oshie currently considered week-to-week, one has to wonder if Washington’s notable recent sturdiness may begin to fade.

This marks just the second loss in six games for the Capitals, who just ended a five-game homestand.

It’s only one game, and even if you roll your eyes at Matthews vs. Ovechkin talk, it has to be a serious confidence-booster for the young Leafs.

Video: Amazing Mrazek flashes the glove

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It’s been a disappointing start to the season for Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mazek. Maybe Jimmy Howard being forced out of the lineup for at least a week will force Mrazek to dig deep and regain his confidence?

Well, if nothing else, he made one of the best saves we’ve seen so far in 2016-17 in thwarting an Artturi Lehkonen scoring attempt.

Seriously, that’s some impressive stuff in the video above this post’s headline. Maybe we’ll see a little swagger repair for a goalie who’s shown plenty of signs of brilliance in the past?

Puck to the head? No big deal for Barry Trotz (Video)

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Think fast: if someone asked you to name a coach who’d shrug off a puck to the head like it was nothing, who would it be?

Chances are high that many hockey fans would blurt out “Barry Trotz,” and not just because this headline spoils the punchline.

As much as Trotz can spin a yarn with the best of them – just watch a Trotz press conference on the right night for “story time” – one look at him and you know he’s not messing around.

Even if it’s not the most shocking development, it’s OK to gape in awe as Trotz gave a puck to the head the “no big deal” during Saturday’s Washington Capitals – Toronto Maple Leafs game.

Good luck explaining why you didn’t block that shot, Capitals players.