James O'Brien

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

Matthew Tkachuk is sticking with the Flames

This season’s youth movement isn’t just about Connor McDavid and others presenting a “changing of the guard.” In a subtler way, players are making impressive headway in jumping straight from the 2016 NHL Draft to full-time work.

Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames present the latest example.

The team informed the 18-year-old that he’d play in his 10th game of the season, even if they made him “sweat it.” That, of course, means that he’s burning a year off of his entry-level deal months after being selected sixth overall in the most recent draft.

It’s an interesting choice. Both the Flames (4-6-1) and the prospect (four points in nine games, about 12 minutes per night) are presenting mixed results.

Actually, much like Calgary, there have been some good signs fairly recently.

Tkachuk generated a three-game assist streak from Oct. 25-30, all at even strength. Considering his scant ice time, that’s not too shabby.

Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan likes his dirty work, using far work-friendlier language than Brian Burke’s colorful description.

“He’s always in the fabric of the game,” Gulutzan said. “He’s always around the net. I (think) he’s done a great job of managing pucks and getting pucks in deep.”

Tkachuk’s regular linemates of Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik are no slouches, but allow a vote for Tkachuk to bring his mixture of skill and tenacity to the Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau combo. No offense meant to Alex Chiasson, but Tkachuk would be fun to watch in a role where he’d clean up the garbage and maybe open up space for that dynamic duo.

That’s not the current alignment, but the Flames could go to that option if they want to; Tkachuk will be around for a while.

More from earlier today: Jakob Chychrun also likely to stick around in Arizona.

Kings make dubious history in nasty, chaotic loss to Ducks


There were quite a few brutal defeats on Tuesday night, but none carry the stench of the Los Angeles Kings’ ugly 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

You have to reach into the history books to find a stretch as bad as the past three games have been for Los Angeles.

Fox Sports West’s Jon Rosen notes that this is the first Kings team to get shut out for three straight games since 1968-69. Woof.

While John Gibson recorded the seventh shutout of his young career, aging fringe NHL goalie Peter Budaj‘s no longer able to scrape together wins. He was pulled from the game after allowing four goals on 16 shots, making way for former Dallas Stars first-rounder Jack Campbell.

So … that’s already some bad stuff.

The thing is, it was nasty even beyond the scoreboard. There were plenty of physical moments, some arguably going over the line.

You have to wonder if Tom Gilbert might face some supplemental discipline for this hit on Nick Ritchie, especially since the forward left the game and didn’t return:

Kyle Clifford was not a popular man in the eyes of the Ducks on Tuesday, as you can see from these fights with Kevin Bieksa and Jared Boll:

There were plenty of other skirmishes, including this odd spectacle late in the game:

Considering the ugly history the Kings made/matched on Tuesday, it is fitting that this was a game many would like to forget.

As division rivals, these teams will see plenty more of each other, with their next game taking place in Anaheim on Nov. 20.

Predators get much-needed win against Avs


DENVER (AP) Ever so steadily, Nashville’s goal scorers are getting on track. The same applies to goaltender Pekka Rinne.

See, nothing to worry about.

Craig Smith scored twice, Rinne stopped 28 shots and the struggling Predators beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-1 on Tuesday night.

Ryan Johansen and Matt Irwin each scored his first goal of the season, while Roman Josi added an insurance goal late for the Predators, who won on the road for the first time.

Now, if only Filip Forsberg could rediscover his scoring touch. He’s still stuck on zero goals – he had 33 last season – but is showing signs of breaking out of his funk with two more assists.

“It doesn’t matter who is (scoring) – it feels good to contribute,” Forsberg said. “We want to keep building.”

The mood in the Avalanche locker room was sour after such a distressing loss. The team even called an impromptu meeting.

“To a man we have to be honest and look at ourselves in the mirror and reflect on the way we come to work every day,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “I’m not going to go into details about the meeting. But we’re going to come to the rink tomorrow with a good attitude. Tonight, it’s got be said: This was embarrassing.”

Staked to a two-goal lead heading into the third period, Rinne easily made it hold up as he improved to 16-7-2 in his career against the Avalanche.

Jarome Iginla scored NHL goal No. 613. He’s 12 behind Colorado Hall-of-Famer-turned-GM Joe Sakic for 15th place on the all-time scoring list.

Landeskog attempted to fire up his team 68 seconds into the third period by dropping the gloves and fighting with Austin Watson. The two traded punches before falling to the ice. Both received five-minute penalties for fighting.

The Avalanche definitely had more zest.

But Rinne & Co. were up for the challenge. Rinne stopped Joe Colborne‘s blast midway through the final period. Moments later, Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis slid across the goal on his knees to knock away a puck headed for the net.

“Best save of the night,” Rinne said.

It was that kind of evening for Nashville, which kept constant pressure on Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

“That’s not at all how we want to play. It’s pretty bad,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “The guys are saying and doing the right things postgame, which is a start.”

Josi tapped in a goal with 7:51 left to secure the win. Smith scored his second goal of the game 1:09 later.

Johansen’s power-play goal at 11:47 of the second period gave the Predators a 3-1 lead. That snapped a string of 12 straight penalty kills by Colorado’s defense.

Smith got the Predators on the board before many fans were even seated as he knocked in a pass from Mike Ribeiro at 1:33.

The Avalanche countered when Iginla scored less than five minutes later. Almost fitting, the 39-year-old Iginla broke out of a five-game goal slump in this game, considering his 39 career goals are the most against the Nashville franchise.

Irwin lined in a wrist shot late in the first period for his first goal since March 28, 2015, at Philadelphia. The defenseman was recalled from Milwaukee of American Hockey League on Oct. 24.

“Things are turning a little bit, just offensively,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “We seem to be staying in a little bit longer, getting more looks, more attempts. With that is going to come more results. It’s nice to get those guys going.”

NOTES: F Cody Bass returned after missing four games with an upper-body injury. … D Matt Carle, who played down the road at the University of Denver, and F Kevin Fiala were scratches. … Avalanche D Fedor Tyutin sat out a fourth straight game with a groin injury, but is skating with the team. “We are going to give him a few more skates before we get him in,” Bednar said. … F Gabriel Bourque was reassigned to San Antonio of the AHL to get more playing time, Bednar explained.


Predators: At Arizona on Thursday night.

Avalanche: At Chicago on Thursday night.

Domingue stumps Sharks for Coyotes’ third win

Wins haven’t been easy to come by for the Arizona Coyotes so far this season, so Tuesday had to be a real confidence-builder.

Louis Domingue was the standout in that contest, making 39 out of 41 saves as the Coyotes beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2.

Patrick Marleau made it 1-0, but Domingue locked it down until Mikkel Boedker made it 3-2 in the waning seconds of the game. Arizona rallied with three goals in between those Sharks tallies, all in the second period.

As much attention as Dylan Strome drew, it was Lawson Crouse who scored his first NHL goal on Tuesday:

Strome somehow didn’t get a point on this unusual exchange:

Jamie McGinn ended up scoring the decisive goal, which must have felt a little sweeter being that the Sharks were the team that originally drafted him.

After dropping five games in a row, the Coyotes have now won two of three as they improved their record to 3-6-0. Arizona snapped the Sharks’ three-game winning streak, dropping San Jose to 6-4-0 in 2016-17.

The only drawback for the Coyotes right now is that Martin Hanzal and Tobias Rieder are now considered day-to-day with lower-body injuries.

And now, your Moment of Zen:

Rask looks stellar again in Bruins victory


SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore scored to lead the Boston Bruins to a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Tuukka Rask stopped 33 shots to help the Bruins win their second straight after a three-game skid.

Denis Malgin scored for the Panthers and Roberto Luongo had 24 saves in Florida’s fourth loss in five games.

Trailing 2-0, the Panthers got on the scoreboard on Malgin’s first NHL goal with 4:35 left in the third when his shot from the slot beat Rask. It snapped the Bruins goalie’s shutout streak of 131:11.

The Panthers pulled their goalie with 3:20 left during a power play to give them a 6-on-4 advantage but couldn’t score.

The Bruins were outshot 13-3 in the first period but Marchand gave them a 1-0 lead with his goal on the penalty shot 3:53 in. Reilly Smith was called for hooking Marchand from behind. Marchand then skated in on Luongo and put the puck over his glove for his 300th NHL point.

The Bruins made it 2-0 on a short-handed goal by Moore at 6:16 of the second. Moore’s angle shot from below the left circle rolled in and out of the net so quickly that the goal light didn’t go off and play continued, but an official’s review a few seconds later determined the puck had crossed the goal line before it came out.

The Panthers were on the power play seven times but couldn’t score as they managed only six shots, and gave up the short-handed goal to Moore in the second.

NOTES: Florida RW Jaromir Jagr played in his 1,639th NHL game, tying him with Dave Andreychuk for sixth on the all-time list. … Panthers RW Jonathan Marchessault, 25, has been named the NHL’s third star for October, tying for the league lead with six goals and adding five assists in nine games. … Bruins RW David Pastrnak, who leads Boston with five goals, sat out the second of a two-game NHL suspension for a high hit against the New York Rangers.