James O'Brien

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

Coyotes and Oilers: Not best friends


With the Edmonton Oilers rising and the Arizona Coyotes sputtering (maybe for their long-term benefit), Edmonton winning 3-2 isn’t too big of a deal.

The mounting tensions between the two teams? That’s a little more interesting, or at least it makes for a better video.

Late in the contest, the Coyotes and Oilers got into a scrum after Oliver Ekman-Larsson delivered a hit on Matt Hendricks. Things devolved from there, as you can see in the clip above.

It’s unclear if OEL put a little more “mustard” on that hit because of Hendricks’ early check on Jakob Chychrun, which left the rookie shaken up:

The Oilers and Coyotes meet two more times this season: on Jan. 16 and Feb. 14. There’s a solid chance that the stakes will be higher for Edmonton than Arizona in one or both of those games, but those matchups will be at least a bit higher on the radar considering the possibility for bad blood.

‘That’s assault’ – Milbury says 2 games weren’t enough for Hoffman (Video)


The NHL decided to hand Ottawa Senators forward Mike Hoffman a two-game suspension for cross-checking San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture. To NBCSN’s Mike Milbury, that wasn’t enough.

Milbury explains that, during his NHL days, that would have sparked a “bench-clearing brawl.” In his opinion, “that’s assault.”

You can watch Milbury’s entertaining take on the league decision ahead, including the worthwhile note that the Sharks almost certainly* won’t get a chance to avenge that infraction this season, in the video above.

* – Unless the two teams meet in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, which isn’t impossible, but still …

Flyers get extra point over Capitals in battle of red-hot Metro teams


Just about everything was even between the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals on Wednesday. It makes sense that the Flyers won by such a narrow margin (3-2, via a shootout).

In both regulation and that shootout, the Flyers were forced to fight back from deficits. They did in both cases, fattening a one-point edge to a two-point margin over the Capitals for fourth place in the extremely competitive Metro Division.

As you can see from the way the standings and games played shake out, the Flyers needed this a bit more than the Capitals:

Metro Standings

1. Penguins – 47 points in 33 games played
2. Rangers – 47 points in 35 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 46 points in 30 GP
4. Flyers – 44 points in 35 GP
5. Capitals – 42 points in 31 GP

Similar trajectories

Again, the parallels between these two teams were only reinforced in this game. Both squads finished with 38 shots on goal, with Braden Holtby and Steve Mason generating some jaw-dropping stops.

The Flyers are now 11-1-1 over their last 13 games while the Capitals are on a similar path, including getting points in all but one of their last six games (6-1-1).

Andre Burakovsky responded to the challenge from the Capitals tonight: show us why we shouldn’t scratch you again. He factored into both Washington goals (one goal, one assist) to help them secure a point. Meanwhile, the Flyers enjoyed strong play from usual suspects like Claude Giroux (tying goal) and Jakub Voracek (an assist on Michael Raffl‘s barely-in tally).


There are certain games where you can just feel that one team has the advantage. In others, it would be pretty difficult to miss which squad has the edge.

This one didn’t really fall into either of those categories. Instead, it was a remarkably even tug-of-war, but to the Flyers’ credit, they’ve shown a remarkable knack for winning that extra battle.

Video: Caps’ Burakovsky responds to slump, scratches with goal

Wednesday presented a precious gift to Andre Burakovsky: an opportunity to get in the Washington Capitals lineup. He responded with a much-needed goal.

After going 26 games without a goal and prompting Barry Trotz to understandably scratch him, Burakovsky scored the only tally of the first period between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers.

Burakovsky’s far too talented to go so long without goals, even if you chalk some of it up to bad bounces. Maybe this will be the start of a hot streak?

Islanders give Stephen Gionta two-way deal, recall him from AHL

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NEW YORK (AP) The New York Islanders signed forward Stephen Gionta to a one-year, two-way contract Wednesday and recalled him from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League.

The 33-year-old Gionta had a goal and two assists in seven games for Bridgeport. Last season, he had a goal and 10 assists in 82 games for the New Jersey Devils. The former Boston College star has 15 goals and 35 assists in 270 career games, all with New Jersey.

The Islanders host Buffalo on Friday night.