James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Mixed Penguins injury news: good for Malkin, bad for Rust

The Pittsburgh Penguins are bruised and battered at the forward position, but Monday brought some good news … but not all good news.

Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first: it sounds like Bryan Rust‘s upper-body injury might be worse than expected. Head coach Mike Sullivan was a little vague, but mainly because it sounds like they’re still trying to gauge the severity of the issue.

“He’s still being evaluated, so reluctant to put a time frame on it at this point,” Sullivan told the team website. “But he is longer term.”

So, Rust is out “longer term,” whatever that means.

The bright side is that the trio of Evgeni Malkin, Conor Sheary and Carl Hagelin are exhibiting varying signs of progress.

Malkin’s case is the best, as he could be back in action as soon as Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks. The team considers him a game-time decision at the moment.

Sheary and Hagelin were both able to skate on Monday, positive signs in each case. It will probably take some time for each player, but overall, those are at least steps in the right direction.

NHL will hold phone hearing with Nyquist after he passes on in-person talk

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On Sunday evening, word surfaced that the NHL offered Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist an in-person hearing for high-sticking Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. The Department of Player Safety released an update that Nyquist declined that face-to-face discussion.

With that, they’ll instead speak to Nyquist about it via a telephone hearing on Wednesday afternoon.

(The Red Wings face the St. Louis Blues at Joe Louis Arena in a game that will be televised on NBCSN that evening.)

Normally, a telephone hearing would set a ceiling for a suspension at five games while an in-person meeting could result in a punishment of six-or-more. This is an exception, as Nyquist was obviously offered a chance to tell his side of the story in person.

Nyquist said he was happy to see Spurgeon return to the game and that while he claimed that he didn’t mean to strike him viciously with that high-sticking infraction, he also conceded to the Detroit Free Press that “I’ve got to have better control of my stick.”

Check out more on that incident in the video below.

WATCH LIVE: New York Rangers at Columbus Blue Jackets

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More and more, it’s looking like it will be a three-team race for the second and third seeds in the Metropolitan Division, with the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets jockeying for position.

This makes Monday’s game in Columbus a treat, as the second-place Blue Jackets (75 points in 54 games) host the fourth-ranked Rangers (73 points in 55 games). With Pittsburgh at 75 points in 55 contests, it’s clear that these three teams are running neck-and-neck right now.

The Rangers might just be the hottest of those squads. Henrik Lundqvist just won his 400th game and the team itself is on a five-game winning streak.

Columbus has dealt with some ups and downs, including questions about how players might be interacting with fiery coach John Tortorella. The Blue Jackets beat Detroit 2-1 on Saturday, so maybe they’re on the verge of another run themselves.

You can watch the action on NBCSN, online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream.

Let’s chuckle at goalie flubs by Mike Smith, Al Montoya (Video)

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It is Sunday morning, so there’s a chance that you’re less likely to roll out of bed grumbling.

Still, you could have had a tough night. Maybe your team lost. Perhaps you suffered some social shortcomings at a bar/party/against online opponents.

Whatever the case may be, if you need a laugh, this post might be your tonic.

This post covers two flubs from Saturday night. The video above the headline marks the second goal of Josh Archibald’s career, scored one period after his first-ever marker. It’s not the first example of Mike Smith being a bit too adventurous handling the puck, though it stands to mention that his better moments generally fail to make highlight/blooper reels.

The biggest saving grace for Smith is that the Coyotes ended up edging the Penguins 4-3 in OT. (Read more about how this result affects the Penguins’ Metro prospects here.)

Smith had a busy night when it came to making us giggle, really:

While the Coyotes were able to win despite that Smith flub, the Montreal Canadiens fell 4-2 to the St. Louis Blues with Al Montoya in net. Montoya had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction in slipping on this early goal:

Hey, at least Montoya didn’t allow 10 goals this time around.

Video: Nazem Kadri’s crushing check on Brian Gionta

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Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri can get under opponents’ skin in a number of ways. Sometimes he’s a nuisance, sometimes he scores a “dagger” goal and every now then, he’ll land a big hit.

Kadri lined up Buffalo Sabres veteran Brian Gionta with a thunderous check on Saturday, one that will make some of us cringe.

The Sabres got the last laugh in this game, however, beating the Maple Leafs 3-1. Evander Kane continues to heat up, scoring two goals in this one. Depending upon how you view Buffalo’s chances, the Sabres are either staying in the playoff picture or proving to be a formidable “spoiler” threat.