James O'Brien

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

Leafs chase Schneider, put damper on Devils’ nostalgic night

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It’s been less pleasant to think of the present on an otherwise nostalgic night for the New Jersey Devils.

Cory Schneider gave up three goals on five shots (yes, that’s less than a 50/50 save percentage) before being pulled in favor of Keith Kinkaid (who quickly gave up the 4-0 goal) as the Toronto Maple Leafs are all over New Jersey to start this game. They ended the first period up 4-0.

On the bright side, fans can look to the past, although some of this action might evoke the earliest days of their run under Dr. John J. McMullen, the team’s first owner. McMullen is being inducted into the Devils’ Ring of Honor on Friday.

Plenty of big names were on hand, from Lou Lamoriello to Claude Lemieux to Patrik Elias (who notably didn’t wear a jersey, as if to remind us that he feels that his story isn’t over).

Here’s full video of the presentation:

Good stuff from the Devils organization. The team lagged behind a bit, at least to start.

Update: The Leafs ended up winning 4-2 on Friday. You could probably accuse them of, um, sitting on their lead a bit –

Injuries prompt Predators to give prospect Kamenev a look

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A 6-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning may indicate that the Nashville Predators’ offense is on the rebound, but the truth is that they haven’t gotten much going lately.

They’ve been held to low shots on goal totals the last three games and have lost four of their last six.

With James Neal a late scratch for that last game and other Predators seemingly a little bruised in that lopsided win, there is one plus for Nashville as they face the Panthers in Florida tonight: they’ll get a look at forward prospect Vladislad Kamenev in his NHL debut.

The 20-year-old was a second-round pick (42nd overall in 2014) and is putting up solid numbers in the AHL, with 24 points in 31 games.

He won’t be asked to lug useless linemates up and down the ice, either. Kamenev is slated to line up with solid (if streaky) forwards Colin Wilson and Craig Smith today.

An interesting opportunity for Kamenev, and he could gain some favor with management if he helps the Predators earn some points to close out a back-to-back set in Florida.

In other news surrounding that game, James Reimer‘s playing for Roberto Luongo … who might have been hurt during warm-ups?

Panthers game won’t be canceled after Fort Lauderdale shooting

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Friday’s Nashville Predators – Florida Panthers game will take place as scheduled at 7:30 p.m. ET despite the shooting that happened earlier today at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport.

The Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov reports that the Panthers discussed canceling the game, but “the NHL and Broward County Sheriff all agreed to play.”

He did notice more security around the arena, however.

The BB&T Center is located about 20 miles from that airport, so it’s not surprising that Panthers players were shaken by the news, noting that such events happened in their “backyard.”

The Panthers are playing on despite that scary situation, which likely puts the team’s own inner drama in perspective.

The Boston Bruins’ flight was diverted to Miami because of the shooting, as well.

With rare win vs. Canada on New Year’s Eve, 2016 ends well for USA Hockey

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Hey, if nothing else, USA Hockey finished the oft-criticized year 2016 on a high note.

In prepping for the bigger games in the 2017 World Juniors, the United States won all four of its games, never trailing on the way. Saturday was truly special, however, as the U.S. beat Canada in the traditional New Year’s Eve game by a score of 3-1.

To give you an idea of how rare that is, consider this: Canada won the last six games on NYE.

With that 4-0-0 mark and this win against the Canadians, the U.S. won Group B.

Minnesota Wild prospect Jordan Greenway (50th pick of 2015, pictured) stood out among the pack, scoring a goal and two assists. Ryan Lindgren (49th pick in 2016 by the Boston Bruins) had a great game in his own right, being named the player of the game for the United States.

It’s fitting that a defenseman was named the MVP of the contest, as this was a very tight game. Despite building a 2-0 lead about six minutes into the game, the U.S. limited Canada to a manageable 26 shots on goal. Neither team scored a goal in the third period, either, so it was a suffocating contest.

Of course, a team as talented as Canada did generate its fair share of chances.

Overall, it was a heck of a performance by the U.S. that featured some great moments for Wild prospects, although Luke Kunin (15th pick by Minnesota in 2016) was ejected for this hit:

Still, the United States managed to lock things down and avoid making that extra mistake that plagued them in previous New Year’s Eve matches against Canada.

Now they need to carry on that strong effort to the even bigger games as the tournament gears up.

Kris Draper and Gary Roberts got a little chippy at alumni game (Video)

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There’s a lot of nostalgia in the air for Saturday’s two alumni games. Most of that involves good-natured fun, but did we sense a little tension too?

As you can see in the video above, Kris Draper and Gary Roberts mixed it up a bit during the 2017 Centennial Classic’s alumni game. They didn’t come to blows, but it was still a pretty entertaining sight.

There were at least some bad feelings involved:

But, yeah, most of the other moments were jovial:

Draper scored the game-winning goal in a 4-3 win for the Detroit Red Wings over the Toronto Maple Leafs, so you could say that he got the last laugh. (Lanny McDonald just happened to get the best laugh.)

There was at least one great athletic feat mixed into the proceedings:

Overall it seems like the fans were the biggest winners, so the event was quite the success.

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NHL.com also has a nice piece about young Maple Leafs meeting old icons. Former Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues players are engaging in an alumni game of their own today, so it’s quite a way for many fans to close out 2016.