James O'Brien

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

Penguins hold off Sabres, strengthen hold on playoff spot


With Ryan O'Reilly on the shelf, the Pittsburgh Penguins probably hoped to dominate the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

It didn’t happen that way, but grabbing a win was the most important thing, and Pittsburgh did that by holding on for a 4-3 victory.

(And, hey, to be fair … Evgeni Malkin‘s still out of the lineup, too. He was placed on IR on Sunday, by the way.)

Again, not a perfect game for the Penguins.

Still, they got points from the usual suspects (a goal each from Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist, plus an assist by Sidney Crosby) while young forward Scott Wilson pitched in another goal.

Kris Letang was probably the real standout, racking up three assists.

Zach Bogosian really unleashed his hard shot in this one, scoring two goals and adding an assist in Buffalo’s charge to try to push the game to overtime. The Sabres’ power play was a double-edged sword, as they went 2-for-3 but allowed a Matt Cullen shorthanded tally.

The Penguins find themselves more solidly in the playoff mix, moving at least briefly up to the first wild card spot (Detroit could push them to second this evening). Sure, they stumble here and there, but Pittsburgh continues to stride in the right direction.

Goalie nods: Crawford vs. Dubnyk in the elements


We’ve seen Marc-Andre Fleury top Robin Lehner, but what about the rest of the starters during Hockey Day in America?

Well, we know that it will be Corey Crawford for the Chicago Blackhawks and Devan Dubnyk for the Minnesota Wild for the 2016 Stadium Series’ game in Minnesota.

This isn’t Crawford’s first rodeo, as the Blackhawks are quite familiar with these events. He’s enjoyed a strong season as Chicago’s relatively unsung hero in net.

Dubnyk’s seen highs and lows much like many of his Wild teammates, but he’s hoping to keep Minnesota’s winning streak going under new head coach John Torchetti.

It sounds like the sun won’t be an issue, but it’s still a contest with more than 50,000 people in attendance, so we’ll see if this game ends up being tightly played or high-scoring.

Elsewhere …

Red Wings at Rangers: Likely Jimmy Howard vs. Henrik Lundqvist

Lightning at Hurricanes: Ben Bishop vs. Cam Ward

Flames at Ducks: Jonas Hiller vs. (best guess) Frederik Andersen

Avalanche at Canucks: Semyon Varlamov vs. Ryan Miller

Watch Live: Hockey Day in America (including Blackhawks – Wild outdoors)


Fans are in for a treat on Sunday, as NBC and NBCSN combine to bring you Hockey Day in America.

Here’s the enticing slate and their respective streaming links.

First, the Buffalo Sabres host the Pittsburgh Penguins on NBC. Coverage begins at noon ET, and you can stream it below.


The fun continues on NBC with the 2016 Stadium Series game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Minnesota Wild. It’s an outdoor game in “The State of Hockey,” and should be a fantastic time all around. Here’s the link for that coverage, with the game happening after Penguins – Sabres.


Finally, the good times switch to NBCSN to close off Hockey Day in America with the New York Rangers hosting the Detroit Red Wings. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET, more or less after the second game of this triple-header.

Here’s the link for that third contest:


Yes, it’s OK to get excited.

Trade: Avs grab Shawn Matthias, Leafs bulk up for 2016 NHL draft


The Colorado Avalanche are scratching and clawing to try to make the playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs are just trying to load up for the future.

With that in mind, there’s no surprise that the two teams combined to further their efforts in both regards on Sunday.

Here’s the breakdown of the trade that just went down.

Avalanche receive: Forward Shawn Matthias

(Does this mean Joe Sakic has his “puck management forward?”)

Maple Leafs get: A fourth-round pick and Colin Smith.

The bigger picture is that Toronto’s really loading up for the 2016 NHL Draft. They also continue to make cap-friendly moves.

It wouldn’t be surprising if both teams made more moves along these lines as the trade deadline approaches on Feb. 29.

This might be Matthias’ best moment:

Video: Doc Emrick spends a day with his hero

Just about everyone has a hero and an inspiration.

For NBC’s beloved hockey announcer Mike “Doc” Emrick, it’s Bob Chase. As you can see in the video above, Doc got the chance to spend the day with Chase.

It’s great stuff, and another example of the quality stories that emerge from “Hockey Day in America.”

If you want a little more, ponder Auston Matthews’ unusual path to the NHL: