James O'Brien

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

WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at Pittsburgh Penguins

It’s a rare treat to watch some great hockey on NBCSN on a Friday, at least at this time of year.

Even better: you get to see a rare matchup between two strong teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings, to boot.

The cores of both of these teams produced two Stanley Cups,* yet their styles are quite different. On one hand, you have the fast-and-furious Penguins, led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. On the other, you have the big-and-stingy Kings (who nonetheless boast huge talent in players like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty).

Overall, it should be an intriguing bout between two teams who are fighting for positioning in their respective divisions. You can watch on NBCSN, online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

* The Penguins won two other ones during Mario Lemieux’s heyday, as you likely know.

Vlasic fined, not suspended, for ‘dangerous use of stick’ on Karlsson

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Mike Hoffman ended up receiving a two-game suspension from that bitter San Jose Sharks – Ottawa Senators game, but Marc-Edouard Vlasic will only lose money for his actions.

The NHL announced that Vlasic will receive the maximum allowable fine of $5K for “dangerous use of the stick” on Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson.

That infraction prompted Sens forward Kyle Turris to go after Vlasic in an unlikely – but understandable – skirmish.

Here’s the altercation where Vlasic used his stick dangerously, as the league would say:

Now watch what Karlsson had to say about it:

Senators fans probably aren’t happy that Hoffman was suspended for two games for cross-checking Logan Couture while Vlasic only received a fine, but fair or not, that’s what happened.

Cody Eakin suspended four games for ‘intentional’ hit on Henrik Lundqvist


The NHL rendered its verdict on that controversial hit from Thursday: Dallas Stars forward Cody Eakin will sit four games for his “intentional, forceful” check on New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Sitting out four games without pay will cost Eakin $85,555.56.

As you can see from the explanation video below, the league believed that he didn’t make a reasonable effort to avoid contact with Lundqvist, instead “loading up” and “bracing for” the collision. They consider this charging.

On the other hand, Lundqvist returning to the game and Eakin’s lack of a suspension history helped to limit the punishment:

Measure of revenge: Lundqvist shuts out Stars after controversial hit


In life, “Living well is the best revenge.”

In sports, the best revenge usually comes down to winning the game.

Henrik Lundqvist took a huge, polarizing hit from Cody Eakin during tonight’s Dallas Stars – New York Rangers game, briefly leaving the contest. Luckily for the Rangers – and unluckily for the Stars – Lundqvist returned to the action and gave his opponents nothing.

Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello scored two goals in the third period of what was a pretty nice goalie duel, all things considered. And it’s little surprise that Lundqvist (particularly a possibly angry Lundqvist) ended up winning that duel.

That’s sort of what he does.

Click here for more on the hit, including plenty of discussion in the comments.

Also on fire: Devan Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild


When discussing top goalies, it’s tempting to stop at goalies like Carey Price, but don’t sleep on Devan Dubnyk. The same could be said for including the Minnesota Wild among the NHL’s hottest teams.

(It turns out you can be red-hot even if you’re NOT in the Metropolitan Division. Who knew?)

In beating the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Thursday, the Wild rattled off their sixth consecutive win and seem to keep collecting points (only failing to do so once in their last 13).

Dubnyk, meanwhile, is on a career-best 8-0-2 run, as the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo points out.

You may look at that 5-2 score and believe that it was a blowout, but that final score is deceptive thanks to two empty-netters by the Wild. Minnesota was actually up 3-1 at the end of the first period and leaned pretty heavily upon Dubnyk, who only allowed one more Predators goal.

Beating the Predators in a game where Nashville carried much of the play holds extra meaning for Dubnyk, as some of the darkest days of his NHL career came during his very brief time in that country music hotbed.

Let’s face it, at this point, any team doubting Dubnyk simply isn’t paying much attention.