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I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Flames regain wild card spot on strength of Brodie’s four-assist night

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T.J. Brodie doesn’t get the same hype or blame as Johnny Gaudreau or some of the other big-name Calgary Flames, but he’s seen his own struggles in 2016-17. It’s easier to see how much of a difference he can make after a strong night, though.

Friday provided especially compelling evidence as the 26-year-old defenseman racked up four assists as the Flames edged the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in overtime.

It’s worth noting that Brodie’s last three assists were all primary helpers, including the overtime game-winner from Mikael Backlund:

Impressive.

That four-assist output gives Brodie 22 points in 54 games, not quite on par with his past two seasons (including 2015-16’s career-high of 45 points in just 70 games), but still solid … especially if he can finish the regular season with a couple strong months.

The Flames are hoping for a strong couple months on a team-wide level, as this win puts them back in the wild card ranks … but the margin of error is tiny.

Wild card standings in the West

1. Flames – 57 points in 54 games
2. Kings – 56 in 51

Blues – 55 in 51
Jets – 54 in 54
Canucks – 52 in 51
Stars – 52 in 52

After losing four games in a row and five of six from Jan. 13-24, the Flames are now on a three-game winning streak, with two of those victories coming in overtime. With seven of their next nine games coming on the road and plenty of competition in the West bubble, every point counts.

Asking for more four-assist performances would be too much, but the Flames will need the best from Brodie & Co. if they hope to outlast their competition.

Huberdeau shines in season debut, Smith receives huge hit from Manson

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Hot take: the Florida Panthers’ 2-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks will be overshadowed by news surrounding owner Vincent Viola. Just a hunch.

Still, it was a pretty memorable night for the Panthers on the ice, too.

Jonathan Huberdeau showed why he’s been so sorely missed on Friday, scoring what ended up being the game-winning goal in his first game of the season.

Friday ended up being an up-and-down experience for Reilly Smith. On one hand, he scored Florida’s first goal of the evening. On the other, Josh Manson delivered this huge hit on Smith, which didn’t draw a penalty:

At the moment, it seems like Smith is OK, so it ended up being a pretty positive night for the Panthers overall.

Report: Panthers owner Viola becomes first Trump nominee to withdraw

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Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola has reportedly withdrawn himself from consideration as President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Army, according to Bloomberg. The Miami Herald’s George Richards confirmed the report.

Bloomberg notes that Viola is the first Trump nominee to withdraw from consideration.

Viola wasn’t able to separate himself from his business interests, though it’s unclear if the Panthers were the factor or if it was another facet.

The full extent of Viola’s financial holdings and ownership stakes in other companies would’ve been detailed in ethics and financial disclosure forms to be filed as the nomination process unfolded. Without them, it’s difficult to know what business arrangements tripped him up. This is the first Trump nominee to withdraw from consideration.

Again, it might not be about the Panthers:

It’s nonetheless an interesting development on an odd Friday of off-the-ice hockey stories, from Connecticut flirting with the New York Islanders, the Islanders making something of a non-statement about that and the Arizona Coyotes seemingly facing a setback when it comes to their eternal struggle to find a steady home.

Time to sell? Red Wings lose Frans Nielsen to upper-body injury

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The Detroit Red Wings might need more than a gentle push to become “sellers” at the upcoming trade deadline. Maybe losing All-Star Frans Nielsen would provide that extra motivation?

Nielsen suffered an upper-body injury during Friday’s game against his former team, the New York Islanders, and will not return.

Beyond missing the rest of this game, it’s unclear how severe the injury might be. It’s also difficult to tell when, exactly, Nielsen got hurt. Maybe during this exchange detailed below?

With the Red Wings on the outside looking in at a playoff spot, you have to wonder if something like this might just make or break things for GM Ken Holland.

Coyotes arena drama awakens: Arizona State University ends Tempe talks

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Back in November, it seemed like there was serious optimism that the Arizona Coyotes might work with Arizona State University to bring the team to Tempe. Friday splashed some cold water on that idea.

ASU pulled out of any deal with the Coyotes in a statement tonight, according to breaking news from the Arizona Republic.

Arizona State University on Friday evening said the university “has no intention of proceeding to sign a development agreement or an option to lease or any other agreement with the Coyotes.”

It’s unclear what inspired this development, although the Arizona Republic notes that Sen. Bob Worsley introduced legislation with hopes of keeping the Coyotes in Arizona this week. Maybe it’s a coincidence, or perhaps something in Worsley’s proposal scared off ASU?

Either way, it seems like a blow to the Coyotes, a franchise that was enjoying quite a surge in optimism as of late.

This doesn’t mean that this was the last straw in this seemingly never-ending story, though. Really, this thing might outlast all of us.