James O'Brien

Blackhawks make Anisimov a surprising scratch, Panik debuts


The Chicago Blackhawks must strive for an eighth consecutive win without Artem Anisimov in the lineup.

It’s unclear whether Anisimov is a healthy or unhealthy scratch; some believe that it might be related to an illness, as this was a surprising announcement.

The Blackhawks will instead face the Nashville Predators with Richard Panik making his Chicago debut.

More than a few Blackhawks fans take solace in the line that may spring up in Anismiov’s absence, as Teuvo Tervainen looks to line up with Patrick Kane and Artemin Panarin. Yeah, that’s a lot of skill in one trio.

Contract extension situation with Kopitar, Kings is … fuzzy


Here’s something we know for sure: Anze Kopitar is on fire right now.

After a solid-but-unspectacular start to his contract year, the Los Angeles Kings star has 19 points in his past 15 games. That included a recent four-point performance against the Detroit Red Wings.

So, he’s playing some fantastic hockey. Again, that’s certain.

Things get a little confusing when you try to gauge how close he is to a contract extension with the Kings, and honestly, it’s been that way for a while now.

On one side, in the latest edition of Insider Trading, TSN’s Darren Dreger wonders if there’s “an impasse.”

On the other, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman thinks they might be close. Maybe?

Friedman calls it what is is in his always-interesting “30 Thoughts” column: a bewildering situation.

16. Weird Stuff I: Anze Kopitar looked brilliant with a four-point night against the Red Wings, but we still don’t have a signed contract. We all think it’s coming.

It sure seemed like he thought it was coming when the Kings came through Toronto in December. It’s one of the stranger negotiations I’ve covered, because everything points to it happening but we’re not there. Now, the conspiracy theories are coming. “Is there a problem we’re not aware of?” “Are they at an impasse?”

Teams are having their scouting meetings now, and one exec asked if he should actually plan for the possibility Kopitar hits the market.

So … let’s just shrug our shoulders at this one, perhaps.

More confusion

Kings thought it was too close not to get done … two months ago

He wanted to get something done before the season started

They “weren’t even in the same ballpark” back in September

WATCH LIVE: Tampa Bay Lightning at Colorado Avalanche

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) makes a diving save on a shot by Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning are both showing some signs of life lately, so perhaps this could be a stepping stone game for one – if not both – of these teams?

One way or another, there’s plenty of star power on the ice tonight, and even in the front offices of each team (you may recall Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy playing some solid hockey games in the past …)

You can watch the game on NBCSN and also stream it via the link below.


Crosby admits it’s a ‘little weird’ for Pens to fight for ‘playoff life’


As they ready for a game against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves in a fairly unfamiliar position: on the outside of the playoff picture.

Granted, they’re not that far outside of the East’s top eight, but it’s a far cry from the sort of work one usually expects from the Penguins.

It seems like it’s leaving Sidney Crosby with a fish-out-of-water feeling, as NHL.com reports.

“It’s maybe a little weird to think that, at the halfway point, you’re fighting for your playoff life,” Crosby said. “But that’s the situation for a lot of teams. Finding that desperation and understanding is important, and hopefully something that’s going to help us here.”

On the bright side, the Penguins have been looking much better lately. They’re 5-2-2 in their last seven games and seem to be showing an offensive burst they often lacked under Mike Johnston.

That seems especially true for Crosby, who looks more and more like … well, Sidney Crosby.

Overall, this isn’t exactly a hopeless situation for the Penguins, yet it’s probably an unusual feeling to face so much uncertainty.

Maybe it will turn out to be a blessing in disguise in the long run?

Canucks end Panthers’ winning streak at 12 games


Well, it had to end sometime. Sadly, it ended a little ugly, too.

The Vancouver Canucks beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime on Monday, ending the Panthers’ franchise-record winning streak at 12 games.

Jake Virtanen proved to be something of a hero not that long after being scapegoated in the Vancouver area, as Virtanen tied it up late in the third period. The Sedin twins then teamed up for the overtime clincher on a 4-on-3 power play after Jaromir Jagr took a costly OT penalty.

Florida’s been fantastic at protecting leads lately, but it didn’t work out this time.

On a night when Canucks fans cheered “Lu” after a big save, the feelings weren’t always warm and fuzzy, especially as the two teams squabbled after the overtime-winner went in. From the look of things, Daniel Sedin (or Henrik?) jawed at the Panthers bench, and some chaos ensued.

(Update: See the scrum in the video above the headline.)

It’s not all bad for the Panthers, mind you, as they still grabbed a standings point by getting to overtime. Still, it probably stings that their ride to remember is over.

… Unless this ends up just being a chapter in a bigger story?