James O'Brien

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

McDavid, Lucic keep hot streak going for Oilers’ offense


Early on as the Edmonton Oilers were succeeding, the feeling was still that they were arguably overly reliant on Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot.

As the Oilers heat up once more, there’s no denying that McDavid is the major catalyst. The frightening thing for opponents is that other players are stepping up as well.

Just consider the variety of forwards who chipped in to Edmonton’s 6-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday:

McDavid: goal, two assists
Milan Lucic: goal, three assists
Leon Draisaitl: goal, assist
Jordan Eberle: two goals
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: goal
Patrick Maroon: assist

Seeing Lucic generate four points is big considering his hefty contract, yet the Oilers must be just as heartened to see Draisaitl get it going.

The 21-year-old is now on a five-game point streak with four goals and four assists. (McDavid has five goals and three assists during his own three-game point streak).

Tonight’s win gives Edmonton three straight victories, and they’ve been lopsided; they’ve outscored their opponents 16-5 during this stretch. Maybe the Oilers really are out of their funk after dropping eight of 10 games.

Uh oh: Toews won’t return for Blackhawks tonight

Ever since Jonathan Toews was noticeably absent from the Chicago Blackhawks’ lineup and bench on Wednesday, people wondered what was wrong in hushed tones. (Just ask CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers.)

Well, we still don’t know much, but the Blackhawks provided this update: he won’t return to tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks.

Update: Myers provides an update that it’s actually upper-body related. Beyond that, the Blackhawks don’t expect to know more until Thursday at the earliest.

Beyond that, it’s basically a mystery. There’s no read yet regarding whether it’s something that will keep him out days, weeks or months.

It’s understandable for Blackhawks fans to fear the worst considering the recent deluge in lengthy injuries to star players, but we’ll just need to wait and see.

Howard powers Red Wings to needed win against Sabres


BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Gustav Nyquist scored in regulation and in a shootout to help the Detroit Red Wings snap a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.

Thomas Vanek also scored in the shootout and had an assist in regulation for the Red Wings, while Brian Gionta scored in regulation for the Sabres.

Jimmy Howard made 32 saves for the Red Wings, and Robin Lehner made 23 saves for the Sabres

After 36 scoreless minutes, the Red Wings went ahead when Nyquist found the back of the net following a spinning pass from Thomas Vanek. The goal was Nyquist’s team-leading fourth of the season.

Buffalo tied it 1:42 into the third when Gionta stuffed a rebound behind Howard. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill challenged the goal, but it stood as called.

The teams traded scoring chances in the 3-on-3 overtime period. Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen had two scoring opportunities but was twice turned away by Howard.

The Red Wings improved to 3-0 in games decided by a shootout this season.

NOTES: Sabres C Ryan O'Reilly returned after missing five games with an oblique injury. … Sabres C Jack Eichel skated with the team Wednesday for the first time since injuring his ankle in practice on Oct. 12, a day before Buffalo’s season opener. Coach Dan Bylsma did not provide a timetable for his return. … Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula got some good news about their NFL team, the Buffalo Bills. WR Sammy Watkins returned to practice for the first time since going on injured reserve with a foot injury. Buffalo got two of its biggest stars back Wednesday, but which is more important? “Well Sammy Watkins, for me,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said. “As much as I love Jack Eichel, he’s not paying any bills for me. Technically, (Eichel) is paying for somebody else in the organization though, isn’t he? But I think, (with) my season tickets – I’d like to see Eichel play. It’s a great question. Obviously, Sammy is such a great talent for us, but man the Sabres need scoring. Tough call.” … Red Wings F Tomas Jurco was assigned to Grand Rapids, Detroit’s AHL affiliate, for conditioning. He’s missed every game this season while recovering from offseason back surgery but is inching closer to a return.


Red Wings: Play at New Jersey on Friday night.

Sabres: Play at Washington on Friday night.

Lightning grab win after brutal third period for Flyers


If you want to chart the Philadelphia Flyers’ feelings from an eventual 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, you could do worse than to consider Ivan Provorov‘s Wednesday.

During the second period, the Flyers generated a gaudy 22 shots on goal while Provorov scored his first NHL goal and also assisted on a Dale Weise tally. Things looked good for the Flyers, even if the score was merely 2-1 in their favor.

In case that final score didn’t spoil it for you, things did not go well for Philly in the final frame.

The Lightning generated a 3-2 lead with two goals in 12 seconds, while Nikita Kucherov‘s late tally put the game out of reach at 4-2.

Also concerning is Provorov’s health, as he was in obvious anguish after blocking a shot:

Not good.

With Sean Couturier suffering a significant injury, the Flyers were hoping for a good night with good goaltending. That happened through two periods, but things ended very poorly for a team that has to be reeling a little bit right now.

Leafs squander a big night for Auston Matthews, again

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Remember when Auston Matthews made NHL history by scoring four goals in his debut? Remember that the Toronto Maple Leafs still managed to lose that game in overtime?

Those memories feel relevant on Wednesday, as Matthews enjoyed a big night in breaking through a personal scoring drought, yet Toronto lost anyway.

Matthews helped the Maple Leafs open the game up with a 3-0 lead thanks to a three-point first period, including two tallies that authoritatively ended a 13-game goal drought.

Things really fell apart quickly. The Devils made it 3-3 with three goals 5:30 into the second period. Still, Matt Martin gave the Leafs another lead at 4-3 just a few minutes later, but that edge wouldn’t hold.

Yohann Auvitu tied things up early in the final frame and Jacob Josefson scored the only shootout goal as the Devils reminded people of their scrappiness with a 5-4 shootout victory.

With that, the Leafs are now on a three-game losing streak, but perhaps Matthews will help Toronto get things back together? If nothing else, he won’t need to answer questions about scoring.

Instead, most reporters will probably focus on the “unable to hold a lead” business.