James O'Brien

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

Panarin’s Hands: Gordie Howe hat trick helps Blackhawks beat Blues

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Seeing Scottie Upshall drop the gloves is a fairly rare thing, yet it happens. Artemi Panarin, though? Few saw that coming.

Then again, maybe the suddenness of it all ended up being the theme for Panarin’s night.

Just like that, Panarin fought with Upshall. Then, just like that, Panarin came out of the penalty box for his five-minute major and scored the 2-1 overtime-winner for the Chicago Blackhawks against the St. Louis Blues.

This victory gives the Blackhawks seven consecutive wins and widens their lead for first in the Central Division over the Blues. For all the worries about Chicago losing a step this season, it must be noted that they’re currently the top-ranked team in the West with 21 points. Only the Montreal Canadiens have more overall with 23.

Consider the Russian winger one of the most unexpected generators of a Gordie Howe hat trick in recent memory, as he assisted on Chicago’s other tally of the night, giving him the requisite fight, goal and helper.

And, boy, it was a pretty legit battle:

The phrase “playoff atmosphere in November” was thrown around often to describe the high-quality, high-tension edition of Wednesday Night Rivalry.

If parallels really do carry over between this very young point of the 2016-17 season and the ensuing playoffs, then you might say that Panarin will be quite the breadwinner for the Blackhawks.

(Sorry.)

More: Not all good news for the Blackhawks – Artem Anisimov left the game with an injury.

Also, maybe we should have seen this coming.

Anisimov won’t return from injury; point streak ends at 11 games

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The Chicago Blackhawks have been jumbling their lines up quite a bit lately, but wherever he’s landed, Artem Anisimov is getting his points.

Or, was, at least. Anisimov’s point streak will end at 11 games on Wednesday night, as he won’t return to tonight’s contest against the St. Louis Blues.

It’s unclear how he was hurt or how severe the issue is. CSN Chicago notes that his last shift came with 5:30 remaining in the second period.

At the moment, the Blackhawks hold a 1-0 lead late in the third period.

Update: Tracey Myers reports that Anisimov’s injury is merely labeled “upper body” and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to play during the weekend.

The Blackhawks ended up beating the Blues 2-1 in overtime. Read more about that here.

Blue Jackets’ sneaky-great youth makes the difference vs. Ducks

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Hey, it’s easier to ignore “The Fenwick and The Corsi” when you happen to have some talented young players who, quite frankly, will look good by just about any measure.

However you want to label their accomplishments, John Tortorella must have been happy with what his young players accomplished in a 3-2 overtime with for the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Anaheim Ducks.

Score effects – another term Torts probably grumbles at – probably explain why The Corsis and Fenwicks started to go Anaheim’s way on Wednesday, but either way, the Blue Jackets won despite losing the shots on goal battle (the Ducks generated a 32-18 edge).

Bottom line: the Blue Jackets’ young guns are having some great games, especially when you consider potential Calder Trophy dark horse Zach Werenski. The brilliant young defenseman finished this stupendous, plucked-from-a-video-game setup by another youngster, Alexander Wennberg:

*Jaw drops*

The Blue Jackets’ other goals came from guys who are still pretty young, if a less vulnerable to the threats of acne. Brandon Saad generated his fourth goal of the season while Boone Jenner finally hit the net for the first time in 2016-17:

However Tortorella feels about analytics, he’ll win his fair share of games if he hands the keys to these promising young players more often than not.

(Strong games from Sergei Bobrovsky – occasional mistake or not – certainly don’t hurt, either.)

Video: Dreger on NHL addressing blindside hits, death threats

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One defense of the ruling not to suspend Nazem Kadri for a controversial hit on Daniel Sedin was that the Department of Player Safety was, well, playing by the rules.

By that train of thought, the key to removing hits like those – assuming you want to, depending on your position as a “hawk” or a “dove”* – is changing the wording in the rulebook.

Specifically, will GMs change rule 48 to address blindside hits and other hits to the head? Hockey Insider Darren Dreger was on NBCSN on Wednesday, and while his discussion is interesting, the takeaway is maybe a little unsatisfying.

His belief: that we might be having a rather similar discussion next year.

Well, that’s unfortunate, at least for those who want to see these types of checks eliminated, or at least reduced.

Here’s the hit in question, in case you need a refresher:

Dreger also discusses how the NHL might handle “shenanigans” that could ensue after a Canucks player reportedly threatened to “kill” Matt Martin after the game, so make sure to watch the full video of Dreger’s illuminating appearance.

* – Anyone else super-excited for political-style debates on this strange Wednesday?

/cough

Injuries: No O’Reilly for Sabres, Dubinsky out for Columbus

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A few injury updates dropped in a short period of time, so let’s address Wednesday’s considerations in one spot to save you a click or two.

For one thing, the Buffalo Sabres will be without Ryan O'Reilly against the Ottawa Senators; the Buffalo News John Vogl notes that it’s an undisclosed issue. Not long ago, the Sabres recalled Cole Schneider from the AHL while demoting Hudson Fasching.

In that same game, the Senators noted that tough forward Chris Neil won’t be able to go because of an upper-body injury. Michael Blunden takes his place in the mix.

Finally, Brandon Dubinsky is sidelined with a lower-body injury in a Columbus Blue Jackets – Anaheim Ducks game that is just under way. Injuries are stacking up for the Blue Jackets, who are reeling from Seth Jones‘ injury.

Dubinsky’s loss could be Sonny Milano’s gain, so that’s something to watch tonight.