James O'Brien

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

Video: Sven Baertschi suffers concussion, won’t return because of this hit


The Vancouver Canucks lost a key forward as they began a do-or-die road trip against the Nashville Predators, as Sven Baertschi won’t return to Tuesday’s game after suffering a concussion.

(Somewhat unusually, the Canucks specifically labeled it a concussion rather than an “upper-body injury.”)

Baertschi suffered the injury thanks to a check by Predators forward Cody McLeod, a play that did not draw a penalty.

Today already ranks as a tough day for the Canucks health-wise, as news surfaced that Anton Rodin underwent knee surgery.

Video: Jonathan Drouin scores clever goal, takes another huge hit

Jonathan Drouin has a knack for scoring the sort of ludicrous goals that just a select few other players could even hope to match. Unfortunately, he’s also absorbed his fair share of huge hits, sometimes in the same games.

Tuesday presented a situation like that, as Drouin looked off Peter Budaj before scoring an outstanding 1-0 goal. You can watch that sublimely skilled tally in the video above.

Later on in the game, Los Angeles Kings forward Nic Dowd caught Drouin with a huge hit, with the young Lightning star only recognizing the danger of his situation mere moments before the check. Drouin seemed insistent on staying on the Bolts’ bench after the hit at first, but he eventually left for observation (perhaps after a request from a tracker?).

Here’s the hit:

We’ll find out soon enough if Drouin avoided injury here. He returned to the game midway through the second period, but sometimes players suffer setbacks once the adrenaline subsides.

The Lightning are already playing down one forward, as Alex Killorn was unable to go on Tuesday due to an undisclosed injury. Tampa Bay currently holds a 2-0 lead against the Kings.

Gallagher could be back to boost Canadiens’ struggling offense soon


Leave it to a hockey player to defy injury recovery windows.

Back in early January, the Montreal Canadiens believed that Brendan Gallagher would miss a “minimum” of eight weeks after hand surgery. While NHL.com notes that Michel Therrien ruled Gallagher out of Montreal’s next two games, it sounds like the agitating young forward could be back soon.

In other words, he might be back closer to six weeks after that surgery.

One wonders if his team’s relative recent struggles might give him the extra motivation to return sooner than expected.

The Canadiens have lost three games in a row and four of their last five. They’ve only scored three goals during this three-game skid and four in those four losses, with a 5-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres being the standout for an otherwise struggling offense.

Gallagher’s had a rough year in his own right. He managed a single goal and zero assists in his last 11 games, so this procedure could be key for a forward who was quietly moving up the ranks among agitating scorers before these stumbles.

The Canadiens face the Avalanche on Tuesday and the Coyotes on Thursday, both games on the road and both games with Gallagher believed to be unavailable.

The Habs play back-to-back games this weekend (home vs. Blues on Saturday, at Bruins on Sunday), followed by a bye week. Those back-to-back games could be a good opportunity to ease Gallagher back in, though if they opt to give him extra rest this weekend, they’d buy him more time while limiting the drawbacks for his team.

Whatever the case may be, Gallagher’s return will be welcome, and he could get enough time to shake off any rust before the playoffs kick in.

Report: NHL will ask players to review ice conditions this month


When you think of the prettiest pictures in hockey, a clean sheet of ice is up there. We’ve seen plenty of examples of NHL players complaining about the exact opposite – and not just in Brooklyn – but it sounds like the league is going to the players to try to solve this problem.

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reports that following each game, players will fill out forms reviewing ice conditions from each period.

It’s dubbed the NHLPA/NHL Playing Environment subcommittee, which gives off a bit of a “sandwich artist” vibe, but is still a sound idea.

The surveys are meant to provide NHL ice expert/Winter Classic ice surface wizard Dan Craig with information he can use to improve conditions. It’s worth noting that the league prompted teams to do a “better job” avoiding bad ice in late January.

Renaud Lavoie provides additional details in the Journal de Montreal (in French), including that all players will fill out the form. His report asserts that many believe that league scoring issues could be solved in part by improving ice quality, especially at struggling rinks.

Players have made the most noise lately about the playing surface for the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Still, it’s worth noting that a Red Wings – Hurricanes game was postponed due to issues and fans of teams like the Washington Capitals have become seasoned in complaints about their teams’ surfaces.

While it remains to be seen how much power the league has over improving ice conditions in places that are prone to issues – whether the factors are related to weather or arenas that were never intended to house NHL teams – asking the players makes a whole lot of sense.

Bonus points if this means fewer issues during the playoffs, when the fun – and heat – really ramps up anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at Tampa Bay Lightning


Both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings can reminisce a bit about better times that happened not that long ago. Winning tonight could help one of them inch a little closer to those glory days.

Things aren’t as dire for the Kings.

At the moment, they have a loose grip on the first wild card spot out West, and games in hand are to their advantage. It’s not exactly a bullet-proof position, but all things considered, they’re surviving.

The Lightning must continue to wrestle with questions regarding their relevance, at least as far as the 2016-17 season goes. Their 52 points in 53 games isn’t catastrophic – look at the Avalanche and their 30 out West – it’s still bad enough that the Bolts are ranked last in the East.

Is it time to punt or should they keep fighting for the playoffs? Nights like these could make an impact on such decisions.

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

Click here for the livestream.