James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Top guys: Blue Jackets continue dominance with 12th straight win

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The Columbus Blue Jackets cemented themselves as the No. 1 team in the Metropolitan Division and in the NHL on Friday.

By winning their 12th game in a row with a 2-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens, the Blue Jackets are more clearly seeing the benefits of their hot streak.

And, seriously, it’s been quite the run.

Here’s how the Metro looks at the moment:

1. Blue Jackets – 50 points in 32 games played
2. Penguins – 49 points in 35 GP
3. Rangers – 47 points in 36 GP
4. Capitals – 44 points in 32 GP
5. Flyers – 44 points in 36 GP

Columbus also finds itself on top of the NHL with those 50 points. The Chicago Blackhawks can tie things up with a win tonight, yet even then, the Blue Jackets will hold two games in hand. So, yeah, they’re the best team in the league right now.

As far as Thursday’s game went, it was a tight game where a lot of usual suspects came up big.

Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 out of 37 stops against the Canadiens, winning back-to-back games after allowing just a single goal in each contest. The scorers were also guys who have been generating points consistently for Columbus; Sam Gagner scored his 14th goal of 2016-17 while Brandon Saad nabbed his 13th. Nick Foligno generated two assists.

That’s the sort of work that the Blue Jackets are, dare we say, starting to expect from these guys. Even if it’s still a little shocking to see the wins keep pouring in.

Wildly successful: Minnesota beats Rangers for 10th win in a row

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You know what helps a hot streak get a little extra attention? Pushing those consecutive wins into the double digits.

Last night, we noted that Devan Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild were quietly red-hot, with the team on a nine-game winning streak. They’d been shutting teams down, for the most part, during that run.

A day later, the wins keep coming, but their 7-4 victory against the New York Rangers was a little different.

For one thing, it was Darcy Kuemper in net instead of Dubnyk. Kuemper’s been able to keep things fairly seamless for the Wild, aside from the occasional brain fart.

The Wild are really gaining on the first-place Chicago Blackhawks for the Central Division lead. To some extent, they’re already more impressive, managing a +36 goal differential (Chicago’s at +17).

It’s been an impressive run, one that couldn’t be derailed by a back-to-back set ending against a quality team like the Rangers.

With four of their next six and six of their next nine games on the road, there are some challenges ahead. If they keep things going despite those potential bumps in the road, they’ll deserve even more attention.

Reilly Smith shaken up by big Niklas Kronwall hit (Video)

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People use Niklas Kronwall‘s last name as a verb far less often than they used to, but that doesn’t mean that the Detroit Red Wings defenseman can’t make someone pay with a big check in 2016-17.

The Florida Panthers are currently hoping for the best after Reilly Smith was clearly shaken up by a hard Kronwall hit on Friday.

As you can see from the video above, Smith was in a vulnerable position trying to receive a (“suicide”) pass and absorbed quite the blow. The Miami Herald’s George Richards believes that Smith might be going through concussion protocol, so we’ll find out if he’ll be able to shake that off or if he misses some time.

Video: Rugged fight – Steven Oleksy vs. Miles Wood

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On Thursday, the fights that generated some attention involved guys who rarely drop the gloves.

This time around, we’re taking a look at guys who are little more adept at throwing knuckles.

The New Jersey Devils are involved in both cases. Last night, it was Michael Cammalleri getting in a fight. This time, Miles Wood had quite the raucous, rugged battle with Steven Oleksy:

That’s frightening and exhausting merely to watch.

After a heated game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Devils continue to show the passion management demanded more of against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.

New Jersey won the game on Thursday while they’re currently trailing on Friday. Either way, they’re fighting harder after being asked to (blanking) play harder.

Update: The Penguins ended up winning 4-1.

As a clarification, not everyone involved in this fight was an experienced pugilist:

Maybe he’s a natural.

Panthers embrace 1,888 points with Jaromir Jagr Night on Jan. 6

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Plenty of people are congratulating Jaromir Jagr for the tremendous feat of becoming the NHL’s all-time second leading points producer. It only makes sense that the Florida Panthers will go all-out for him, too.

Specifically, the team is hosting “Jaromir Jagr Night” during their Jan. 6 game against the Nashville Predators.

Some of the planned stuff is pretty by-the-books, including the first 10,000 fans getting a commemorative t-shirt.

The fun stuff comes in thematic pricing based off of Jagr’s jersey number 68 and his 1,888 points:

Ticket offers for the evening are themed around Jagr’s 1,888th point and jersey number. Offers include an $18.88 upper goal zone offer and a $68.00 sideline and sideline premier offer that includes a $15 food and beverage credit.

Nice, right?

As you can see, a wide variety of people are rolling out the red carpet for the living legend. In case you missed it, enjoy this video of former competitors and current teammates congratulating him:

Heck, even the Pittsburgh Penguins seem like they’re going to play nice.