Author: James O'Brien

Chicago Blackhawks v Anaheim Ducks

Toews feels great despite big hit; Crawford’s getting better, too

However Jonathan Toews might feel about the Dennis Seidenberg hit itself, it sounds like that big check won’t sidetrack the versatile Chicago Blackhawks captain.

He told’s Tracey Myers that he’s good to go against the New York Islanders and doesn’t have any regrets about the way the situation was handled.

“Even though everything went well and I felt fine, they still wanted to play it safe and hold me out, given the situation where we were up 3 goals at the time,” Toews said, who added that, if he had it to do over again, he would “absolutely” still stay on the ice for that 5-on-3 power play.

In case you missed it, here’s the check by the Boston Bruins defenseman:

Toews can play against the New York Islanders tonight, and while the same can’t be said for Corey Crawford, it sounds like he can return as soon as next week.

Considering the fact that the Blackhawks are currently on an eight-game winning streak and Scott Darling has emerged as a viable backup candidate, it’s no surprise that head coach Joel Quenneville is quick to mention that he doesn’t want to rush Crawford back into action.

Pens’ Maatta could miss weeks, no update on Crosby yet

Pittsburgh Penguins v Toronto Maple Leafs

Mumps or not, it doesn’t sound like Sidney Crosby will be out much longer for the Pittsburgh Penguins, even if he’s missing tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The same cannot be said for defenseman Olli Maatta, however.

The Penguins released two updates regarding the 20-year-old blueliner on Saturday, noting that he’s still undergoing testing and seeking a second opinion on an upper-body injury that has him on IR. He could be out “weeks.”

It’s been a trying season for Maatta, to say the least.

He had a cancerous tumor removed via surgery earlier this season and managed to come back much earlier than expected. He then got injured once again last weekend, leaving many worried about his outlook for at least the short-term future.

The waiting game also continues with Crosby, as the team didn’t provide an update (aside from there being no update).

With Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist back in the mix, the Penguins are getting healthier. That doesn’t mean they’re at full strength yet, though.

NHL on NBCSN: Kings begin road trip against Sabres

Torrey Mitchell, Matt Greene

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Buffalo Sabres host the Los Angeles Kings at the First Niagara Center at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

There are a lot of remarkable stats one can throw around about the Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres, yet all things considered, their records in the last 10 games ranks up there among the most baffling:

Kings in last 10 games: 6-3-1
Sabres in last 10 games: 6-4-0

Considering how poorly Buffalo comes across in an array of areas – a power play of potentially historic inefficiency, allowing 13 more shots per game than they’re producing – it’s remarkable that the Sabres’ record has been nearly identical to the Kings’ lately.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $20,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts Tuesday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link. notes that Los Angeles is just 3-2-1 in games in which they’ve generated at least 38 shots on goal, including Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

From this narrative thread, it seems like Buffalo’s best bet is to frustrate (or even “rope-a-dope”) Los Angeles.

There could be some hard feelings carrying over from the two teams’ first meeting of 2014-15. Four fights erupted in the Kings’ 2-0 win on Oct. 23, so despite limited exposure against each other, there’s a chance for some tension on Tuesday night.

The Kings hope to improve on the road, as they carry a 3-4-4 away record into a five-game road trip that begins tonight in Buffalo.

It will be interesting to see if Los Angeles ends up going with Martin Jones instead of Jonathan Quick in goal, as Jones is currently riding a two-game shutout streak. If Buffalo gives Jhonas Enroth the nod, we could witness a battle between two netminders who have been on relative hot streaks lately.

Ultimately, tonight’s a match between a cellar dweller and the defending Stanley Cup champions, yet the Kings would be wise not to take the Sabres lightly.

Green still not ready, but Caps say he’s very close

Calgary Flames v Washington Capitals

There was some hope that Mike Green might play for the Washington Capitals against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, but that’s not the case.

On the bright side, knowing so early allowed Barry Trotz to plan things out so Green has the best chance to return healthy (whenever that may be), as the Washington Post reports.

“If Mike feels that he’s probably not ready for tomorrow, I’m going to keep him back,” Trotz said on Monday. “If not, I’d rather him have a really good day of just conditioning and get some therapy and some strength work and that on the rehab, than make the trip and have a late-morning skate. We can skate him, but we don’t have quite the facilities there as what we do here.”

The 29-year-old seems to be on the same page with his team and his coach, emphasizing that he’d rather avoid any setbacks instead of rushing to return from an injury he suffered on Nov. 22.

Green told the Washington Post that Monday was “the first day I could actually shoot, really push it,” so that’s a positive sign, especially for a blueliner who still possesses one of the NHL’s most dangerous shots (at least among defensemen).

As this post discusses in greater detail, the Capitals are a better team with Green, yet it’s a long season and the injury-prone defenseman knows all too well about how much nagging issues can plague a campaign.

After tonight’s road game against the Lightning, the Capitals play at home on Thursday and Saturday. They finish 2014 with a road-heavy haul (six of seven away), so the team would probably be happiest to get Green up to speed once they hit that rougher patch.

Bobrovsky on returning Dubinsky: ‘He drives us’

Brandon Dubinsky

As mentioned yesterday, the Columbus Blue Jackets expect Brandon Dubinsky to return to the lineup tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. The team didn’t discount how much of a difference-maker he can be, as the Columbus Dispatch reports.

“Dubi, he’s our leader,” Sergei Bobrovsky said. “He drives us, the whole team. It’s a big thing that he is back.”

Dubinsky also “drives” play, as you can see from his strong possession numbers, even in heavy-lifting situations. Not many players can score in decent bunches, play a physical game and do the little things to move the puck in the right direction quite like the 28-year-old forward.

Columbus is 9-15-2 for 20 points without him, tying the Buffalo Sabres for the second-worst standings total in the league (although they do hold a game in hand). It’s possible that the Blue Jackets dug too deep a hole in the 26 games without Dubinsky to make a charge for the playoffs, but if it isn’t too late, Dubinsky can make a significiant difference.

The Blue Jackets are currently on a three-game winning streak, so things are looking up in general.