James O'Brien

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

Brent Burns is on a beastly pace


With a whopping eight points in four games, Brent Burns was the NHL’s leading scorer headed into Wednesday’s duo of contests.

Playing three games in four nights only seemed to feed the beast. After generating a goal to start his 2016-17 season on Oct. 12, Burns really caught fire lately, including two goals and three assists between Monday and Tuesday.

And it’s not as if this is all dumb luck.

For one thing, Burns already laid down a precedent in 2015-16, scoring a ridiculous 75 points. Defensemen not named Erik Karlsson aren’t supposed to be able to light up the scoreboard like that in the modern NHL.

Yes, a 15 shooting percentage is a little high – particularly for a blueliner – but Burns is enough of a unique weapon that he could very well flirt with the kind of efficiency enjoyed by forwards.

Is Burns slated to score at his current two-points-per-game pace and hit 164? No, but it’s not totally outrageous to imagine the Wookie-like defenseman managing 82 points in as many games, health permitting.

His incredible start could very well be the natural progression from the leap he took last season, and it probably doesn’t hurt that he’s playing for a new contract (and so many pizzas!).

MORE: What will his next contract look like?

It’s astounding stuff, even if it’s easy to get distracted by the glorious weirdness of Burns’ life.

Just take a slice of it here, as Burns was seen walking around with a shirtless Joe Thornton. This image is currently featured on the San Jose Sharks official Twitter feed:

Naturally, Burns responded in a very, well … Burns way.

He’s regaled observers with his ridiculous black eye after facing Columbus and amused many with his stated desire to live in an RV.

Yes, there’s rarely a dull moment when Burns is involved. Just don’t forget that he’s doing great things on the ice, too.

In fact, he could enjoy a truly special season, one almost as unique as Burns himself.

Naturally, the best course of action is to enjoy his strong work on the ice and Paul Bunyan-like presence, which sometimes converge in beautiful ways:

Islanders bring up Ryan Pulock from AHL


NEW YORK (AP) The New York Islanders recalled defenseman Ryan Pulock on an emergency basis Wednesday from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League.

The 22-year-old Pulock had an assist and a plus-2 rating in Bridgeport’s first two games of the season. Last season, He had two goals and two assists in 15 games with the Islanders last season and seven goals and 17 assists in 51 games with the Sound Tigers.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound defenseman, from Dauphin, Manitoba, was selected 15th overall by the Islanders in the 2013 draft.

Rangers get Kevin Klein back vs. Red Wings


The New York Rangers defense is getting a little healthier.

While Dan Girardi is still banged up, it looks like Kevin Klein is good to go against the Detroit Red Wings in tonight’s Wednesday Rivalry Night matchup.

Perhaps Alain Vigneault might have a curveball up his sleeve, but at the moment, Dylan McIlrath seems like the probable loser in a game of defenseman musical chairs with Klein returning.

Klein does a little bit of everything for the Rangers, including putting together strangely identical scoring seasons of nine goals and 17 assists in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.

It’s also important to note that he sometimes sports the sort of facial hair that’s reminiscent of a villain in a silent film. Hard-hitting analysis.

Anyway, Klein is likely to give the Rangers a subtle boost against Detroit, at least if he isn’t too rusty.

WATCH LIVE: Red Wings – Rangers on Wednesday Night Rivalry


For all we know, the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers might be battling for one of the East’s final playoff spots by the end of the season.

It’s not the happiest thought for two banner NHL franchises that have grown accustomed to playoff appearances (and often deep runs), but that’s at least the perception early on in 2016-17.

Despite some gloom and doom, the two teams still feature some fun pieces. You could do worse than Henrik (Lundqvist) vs. Henrik (Zetterberg). New York’s offense is pretty deep, and so far, Red Wings such as Mike Green and Thomas Vanek seem a little rejuvenated.

We’ll get a better idea about both teams in seeing them face off on Wednesday Night Rivalry.

Watch online or stream it on the NBC Sports App. Here’s the link.

Oilers recall Betker after placing Fayne on IR


The Edmonton Oilers made a tweak to their defensive depth on Wednesday, recalling Ben Betker while placing Mark Fayne on IR.

There’s no guarantee that Betker (pictured) will see any ice time, but if he does, he’s likely to stand out in a literal way. Because he’s a large fellow, as the Oilers’ release notes:

At 6’6”, 228 lbs, Betker played three full seasons in the WHL with the Everett Silvertips from 2012-15, after appearing in one game with Portland in 2011-12.  The blueliner was an alternate captain with Everett in his final WHL season.

On its face, losing Fayne doesn’t exactly help Edmonton shake its habit of trying to “out-score” its mistakes. Fayne is a solid guy in his own zone, after all.

He hasn’t really been able to make the lineup, however, with about two-and-a-half minutes of ice time so far this season.

It may solidify Eric Gryba’s place in the top-six mix, as the Edmonton Journal’s Kurt Leavins notes.