James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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WATCH LIVE: Blues at Red Wings – Wednesday Night Rivalry

The Detroit Red Wings will play six games without Gustav Nyquist, beginning with Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Blues. (They seem like they’ll get Thomas Vanek back, though.)

Detroit was already in a tough way with the talented forward. They’re currently ranked last in the East – which, to be fair, is remarkably competitive top to bottom – and have lost four games in a row.

The Blues, meanwhile, are a on four-game winning streak as they continue to benefit from the breath of fresh air that is Mike Yeo being coach (and Jake Allen bouncing back in a big way). While the Red Wings must ponder being trade deadline sellers, St. Louis’ outlook seems pretty bright.

Of course, things can twist and turn pretty quickly in this era of parity, so let’s see if this game between two former division rivals makes an impact on either teams’ fortunes.

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

Gustav Nyquist suspended six games for high-sticking Jared Spurgeon

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After holding a telephone hearing on Wednesday, the verdict is in: Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist has been suspended six games for high-sticking Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon.

The NHL notes that Nyquist was clearly acting in retaliation to a cross-check to the back, though they buy his argument that he was swinging his stick to cross-check in return (thus allegedly high-sticking Spurgeon more dangerously in the face on accident).

The Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James reports that the Red Wings will not attempt to appeal the suspension.

Two factors seemed to help his cause: Spurgeon seemingly avoided injury and Nyquist doesn’t have a disciplinary history. The suspension will cost Nyquist $158,333.34.

Here is the explanation video via the league:

Impacts for the Red Wings and Wild

MLive’s Ansar Khan notes that, with the bye week in mind, Nyquist is getting a pretty long unpaid vacation:

Meanwhile, the Wild are relieved that Spurgeon is OK, as this decision might actually have some drawbacks in more practical terms:

Coyotes clobber Flames, who flub chance to regain playoff position

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The Calgary Flames came into their bye week with wins in four of five games, with three coming beyond regulation. Did that five-day break extinguish that momentum?

That’s a question for those who want to bat around such semantic debates, but the bottom line is that the Flames suffered a rough loss on Monday, dropping a 5-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.

The Flames fired 19 shots on goal to nine for Arizona in the first period, but Martin Hanzal scored the only goal of the opening frame. Mike Smith had a great game, posing a 36-save shutout, his second goose egg of 2016-17.

Christian Dvorak did just about everything except managing a hat trick in this one, settling instead for two goals and an assist. Ryan White also enjoyed a nice game, collecting a goal and an assist.

It’s one of the Flames’ worst losses of the season, and it’s also a squandered opportunity to climb into the West’s top eight.

West wild card races

Predators – 62 points in 56 games
Kings – 60 points in 55 games

Flames – 59 points in 57 games
Canucks – 56 points in 56 games
Stars – 54 points in 57 games
Jets – 54 points in 58 games

The Flames don’t have much time to sulk about this letdown. After Wednesday’s home game against the Flyers, the Flames embark on a five-game road trip.

Stretches like those can make things go sideways, so the Flames have to let this one go, as much as it likely stings.

And the Coyotes? Well, teams might want to start taking them seriously as “spoilers” going forward.

Rangers make for muddled Metro by besting Blue Jackets

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The New York Rangers’ winning streak already made for a congested race for the second and third spots in the Metropolitan Division. The picture’s even more muddled after Monday.

Antti Raanta played another great game and the Rangers defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 tonight, giving New York an impressive six-game winning streak.

It also makes for a virtual tie between the Blue Jackets, Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, with games in hand being among the factors separating three teams locked at 75 standings points:

2. Penguins – 75 points in 54 games (34 wins, 32 ROW)
3. Blue Jackets – 75 points in 55 games (35 wins, 33 ROW)

Rangers – 75 points in 56 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Interestingly, the Rangers and Blue Jackets both get two more games against the Penguins this season … and one more contest versus each other.

Blue Jackets’ remaining games against Penguins:

Feb. 17 in Columbus
April 4 in Pittsburgh

Rangers’ remaining games against Penguins:

March 31 at MSG
April 9 at MSG

Rangers vs. Blue Jackets:

Feb. 26 in Columbus

So, yeah, there are some games in hand differences and other tiebreaker factors, both all three teams seem like they have a real chance at finishing on top in this three-horse race. (Don’t expect any of them to catch the first-place Washington Capitals, though.)

Circling back to Monday’s game, Brandon Dubinsky scored the only goal of the first period. Dan Girardi collected the only tally of the middle frame, and it was a rarity: a shorthanded goal for the occasionally derided defenseman.

Kevin Hayes made it 2-1 with a semi-breakaway, Nick Foligno tied things up with about eight minutes left in the third and then Jimmy Vesey beat Sergei Bobrovsky with a nifty move and from an unusual angle to score the eventual game-winner for the Rangers.

Both teams failed on their power plays (Rangers going 0-for-5; Blue Jackets went 0-for-4), but with that shorthanded goal in mind, Columbus might face some regrets about special teams in particular.

Overall, it was a very close game, which is fitting enough since the playoff races are so close between these marvelous Metro teams.

Vegas Golden Knights owner dishes on many subjects (including the Raiders)

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Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley covered a wide array of interesting topics in his discussion with Sports Book Radio’s Brian Blessing on Monday, including a bit of a shot at their possible future neighbors, the NFL’s Raiders.

The most important discussions revolved around how Foley expects the Golden Knights to come together … but let’s start with the spicier bulletin board material, transcribed nicely by Sin Bin Vegas.

“Our hockey team is locally owned, locally operated,” Foley said. “We are going to be the local team, the Raiders will never be the local team.”

Interesting.

Coaching talk

Foley sort of waffled back and forth on the coaching issue, espousing the virtues of jumping on an opportunity for one of the big names available while also noting that even more options could potentially crop up if they wait until the end of the season.

It sounds like the Golden Knights may be cautious about how much they’d spend on any option, which might reduce their chances of going after a more established name such as Claude Julien.

Building the team, when to expect success

It’s true that the Golden Knights could hatch some deals at this very trade deadline, possibly not to take a player at the expansion draft. Foley indicated that it might be difficult to be particularly busy, however.

He believes the team could grab good defensemen and goalies, but admits that grabbing a goalie might be “tough.”

If all of this is too vague for your taste, consider these timetables laid out by Foley and GM George McPhee: playoffs in three seasons, the big one in seven.

Interesting stuff, huh? There are plenty of other tidbits to chew on in this interview, so feel free to read Blessing’s full bit with Foley.