James O'Brien

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

Limping Lightning: Hedman, Callahan join injured ranks


The Tampa Bay Lightning have to hold out hope that their latest run of injuries won’t leak into the playoffs.

The Bolts announced that Victor Hedman (upper-body injury) and Ryan Callahan (lower body) won’t be able to play against the New York Rangers on Tuesday. The somewhat positive news is that both players are considered day-to-day, even if such prognoses can stretch out for quite some time in their own right.

Hedman is the biggest concern, as he joins a list of very painful injuries for the Lightning that includes captain Steven Stamkos (out one-to-three months with a blood clot) and Anton Stralman (on IR with a fractured left fibula).

No doubt, this is a serious concern for the limping Lightning.

These issues do allow some solid fringe players to get more reps:

The most optimistic thought is that, in the case of Hedman and Callahan, it’s at least conceivable that those two may be ready when the playoffs begin next week.

Either way, this Lightning team looks like it will already begin the bruising playoffs with some serious headaches.

Flyers sign Yale goalie Alex Lyon to entry-level deal


Goaltending depth might be, at times, a bit of a concern for the Philadelphia Flyers. Perhaps that won’t be much of an issue going forward.

The Flyers signed Yale goaltender Alex Lyon to an entry-level contract on Tuesday.

He’s been nominated for the Richter Award (honoring the NCAA’s most outstanding goalie) for two straight years, with sparkling save percentage numbers each season.

Will that translate to NHL numbers at some point? At 23, we might not have to wait too long to see if Lyon pans out.

The other teams who courted Lyon, at least according to a guess by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, were: Carolina, Chicago, Edmonton and Los Angeles.

Ryan McDonagh’s out for at least the rest of the regular season

The New York Rangers shared lousy news on Tuesday: Ryan McDonagh is sidelined indefinitely, and he’s already ruled out of the team’s remaining regular season games.

McDonagh suffered what looked like a hand injury blocking a shot during Monday’s playoff-clinching win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see how it happened in the video above.

The Rangers didn’t clarify, only deeming it an “upper-body injury.”

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks backs up the notion that it’s possibly a broken bone in McDonagh’s right hand and wonders if the key defenseman might also miss a playoff game or more.

While McDonagh’s 22:21 time-on-ice average is actually a little lower than the minutes he averaged during the past two seasons, he still leads the Rangers in that category. He’s a crucially important player to a team that’s already been stumbling toward the finish line of the regular season.

As of this moment, they’re set to face a red-hot Penguins team that could be an especially big nightmare to contain if McDonagh misses the beginning of that hypothetical series.

The Rangers already recalled Brady Skjei in McDonagh’s absence. The young blueliner seems like he’s getting a shot based on the injuries of others:

Datsyuk’s agent basically gives non-answer about Russia rumors


If Detroit Red Wings fans were hoping for reassurance from Pavel Datsyuk‘s representatives regarding Elliotte Friedman’s report about a possible departure to Russia are out of luck.

Now, that doesn’t mean his reps say that Datsyuk is leaving. Instead, the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James received a statement from agent Dan Milstein that doesn’t really tell you anything:

Dan Milstein, who has managed Datsyuk for 12 years and is also his agent, said in an e-mail that, “Pavel has one more year left on his NHL contract. We will sit down with Ken Holland at the conclusion of the season for our annual year-end meeting.

“Pavel is very determined to play and show his best game while helping, assisting and motivating his team into the playoffs and another Stanley Cup.”

Well, that’s better than “no comment.” Maybe.

As this post details, it’s not just that the Red Wings are losing an aging superstar in a scenario where Datsyuk leaves after this season. As a veteran with a 35+ contract, Detroit will be on the hook for Datsyuk’s $7.5 million cap hit even if the genius forward doesn’t play in 2016-17.

(About the only silver lining of that situation is that at least Datsyuk’s contract expires after 2016-17, so the damage would at least be limited.)

So, long story short, it’s possible that Datsyuk and maybe those close to him only really know how accurate that report really is.

Bruins’ playoff hopes take big hit after comeback falls short vs. Chicago


“Almost” might just be a word that will haunt the Boston Bruins after Sunday.

It’s possible that people will use that word regarding a failed playoff bid, and it’s definitely something that can be trotted out regarding their 6-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks this afternoon.

For quite some time, it looked like the Blackhawks would absolutely humiliate the Bruins. Tuukka Rask was chased from the Bruins’ net, Patrick Kane hit the 100-point plateau with a huge output and Chicago roared to a 6-0 lead.

Fittingly, some quick goals changed the feel of this one.

The Bruins managed a pair of goals in little time to give themselves more confidence heading into the third period, and things really got interesting there, with the B’s closing the gap to a 6-4 lead for Chicago.

Ultimately, Boston didn’t reach the finish line, even with an “almost” or two in the late stages.

Now, keep in mind that the Bruins aren’t mathematically eliminated by any stretch.

Still, it’s a defeat that may haunt the Bruins. The Detroit Red Wings are one point ahead for the third spot in the Atlantic Division, with both teams holding three games remaining. The Philadelphia Flyers are also one point ahead of the Bruins with 91 standings points … and Philly holds two games in hand.

So, yeah, this hurts. Even so, the Bruins can keep hope alive by noting a huge April 7 game against the Red Wings, and the fight they showed even if it ended up being too little, too late.

It’s “almost” as if this was a death blow, but luckily for the Bruins and their fans, that’s one almost that’s on their side.

Note: the Blackhawks get the win … but Marian Hossa may be injured. More on that later on Sunday or when an update comes.