James O'Brien

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

Fight videos: Hair pulling, blood, dynamite punches


This post’s alternate headline could probably be “Another day at the office for Antoine Roussel and Chris Neil.”

You can see Roussel’s work mostly after his fight with San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels in the video above. The Stars super-pest pulled Wingels hair which is a very “Roussel” thing to do.

The Stars ended up beating the Sharks 4-2.

In our other bout of note, Clayton Stoner left Neil bloodied during this fight:

Injuries indeed strike Lightning twice with Kucherov, Stralman

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As feared, Nikita Kucherov was not able to play in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s significant skirmish with the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.

The details are mum (file him as “undisclosed” and “day-to-day”) for Kucherov, who attempted to play but didn’t feel so great during warm-ups.

Kucherov appeared to get hurt late in the Lightning’s boisterous win against the New York Islanders on Friday. Here are a few accounts of Kucherov taking tonight’s warm-up:

Update: A slightly more descriptive way of … kind of saying the same thing about Kucherov.

Really, it’s coming down in buckets for the Lightning lately.

The biggest concerns are with Kucherov and Anton Stralman, whose return is limited to “maybe if the Lightning make a deep playoff run.”

Tampa Bay is rolling with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in this key game against the Florida Panthers. If they manage a win (they’re currently down 2-1), it would be quite the remarkable feat for a team that’s starting to show some of the promise they often exhibited last season.

Perhaps we’ll get a more exact idea regarding Kucherov’s condition later tonight?

Reunion postponed: Flu keeps Oshie from facing Blues


If T.J. Oshie wants to play against his former teammates, he’ll need to wait until April 9.

That’s the last time the Washington Capitals face the St. Louis Blues, and hey, that one holds even more meaning since it takes place in St. Louis.

Oshie is unable to suit up for the Caps tonight because he’s dealing with the flu.

Oshie played the first seven seasons of his career with the Blues, appearing in 443 regular season and 30 playoff games. He joined the Capitals in a trade that sent Troy Brouwer and other assets to St. Louis.

(“Changes had to be made,” according to Oshie.)

The Blues have a lineup note of their own, as Carl Gunnarsson is sidelined with a lower-body injury, opening up a spot in the mix for Petteri Lindbohm.

Red-hot goalies Braden Holtby and Brian Elliott are taking the night off, too, so … yes, this game lost some pizzazz.

Card carrying: Wild clobber Avs, take five-point lead for playoff spot


If the Minnesota Wild edge the Colorado Avalanche for the West’s second wild card spot, we might just look at Saturday afternoon as the day that cemented the difference.

The Wild continued their hot streak with a convincing 4-0 win against the Avalanche today, extending their winning run to five straight games.

In the process, Minnesota fattened its lead over Colorado to five standings points.

From a tiebreaker standpoint, the Avalanche hold more run-of-the-mill wins than the Wild (38 to 37) and most importantly hold a game in hand. Minnesota now equals Colorado with 34 regulation/OT wins.

Ultimately, the Wild really seem to have the Avalanche’s number, and that might be the difference between a playoff berth and early golfing outings.

Then again, maybe the coaching change was the real difference-maker?

Either way, give Zach Parise a big chunk of the credit (two goals on Saturday, seven points during a three-game streak) and don’t forget Devan Dubnyk, whose shutout gives him five straight victories.

In other words, the Wild are getting big contributions during huge moments, and that might just punch their ticket to another playoff berth.

Blues clinch playoff berth via yet another Brian Elliott shutout


The St. Louis Blues are making a habit out of earning playoff berths, and Brian Elliott is spinning off shutout streaks with impressive regularity.

Those patterns convened on Friday, as Elliott helped the Blues clinch a playoff spot via a 4-0 win against the collapsing Vancouver Canucks.

That marked his third straight shutout, which apparently is becoming something of a Brian Elliott specialty lately:

Again, the Blues have a nice playoff streak going …

… Which people will almost instantly disparage thanks to middling work once the playoffs begin.

Considering the streak he’s currently enjoying, maybe Elliott’s the right goalie to help the Blues end their run of disappointments in April?