James O'Brien

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

Kings win fourth in a row as Kopitar returns

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Dwight King scored twice in a 20-second span late in the third period, Peter Budaj stopped 22 shots and the Los Angeles Kings defeated the New York Islanders 4-2 on Wednesday night for their fourth consecutive win.

Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez also scored to help the Kings win their fifth straight at home.

Anders Lee scored twice and Jaroslav Halak made 24 saves for the Islanders, who dropped to 1-5-1 on the road this season.

King deflected in Derek Forbort‘s long slap shot for the go-ahead goal with 2:28 remaining, seconds after a power play expired. He made it 3-1 just 20 seconds later, and Muzzin added an empty-netter.

Lee tied it 4:27 into the third period. He was somehow able to collect and backhand in the rebound of Travis Hamonic‘s missed shot while tangled up with Kings defenseman Matt Greene.

Lee added his third goal of the season with 1:52 left to make it 4-2, but the Islanders failed in their attempt to string together consecutive wins away from Barclays Center for the first time this season.

Martinez put the Kings ahead 15:34 into the first period with his fourth goal of the season, taking advantage of Trevor Lewis‘ screen in front to beat Halak with a shot from the blue line.

Kings defensemen have seven goals during their winning streak, including Martinez scoring the opener against New Jersey last Saturday.

Muzzin and Anze Kopitar, who returned to action after missing five games with a hand/wrist injury, had assists on the play.

The Islanders could not carry over the momentum from their first road win of the season Tuesday at Anaheim, despite two power-play opportunities in the first 11 minutes. New York had just one shot with the man advantage and seven total in the opening period, half the number needed to decide their 14-round shootout against the Ducks the previous night.

The Kings’ penalty kill has been especially sharp of late, allowing just one goal in 16 opportunities over its last five games.

The second period was a sleepy affair, with no goals, no penalties and the teams combining for 13 shots. There was drama in the closing 30 seconds as the puck took a strange bounce off the wall, leaving Halak out of position, but Kyle Clifford lost his footing in front of the crease and could not take advantage.

NOTES: The Islanders scratched G Thomas Greiss, RW Cal Clutterbuck and D Scott Mayfield. Clutterbuck, who sustained an upper-body injury against the Ducks, went through pregame warmups before being held out. … The Kings scratched LW Teddy Purcell and D Tom Gilbert.


Islanders: Friday at San Jose.

Kings: Saturday night at home against Chicago.

Sharks slip by Blackhawks, who lost Toews to injury

The Chicago Blackhawks fought diligently but couldn’t recover from the San Jose Sharks’ early lead on Wednesday. They’re more concerned about Jonathan Toews‘ recovery at this point, though.

Their captain left the game with an upper-body injury and didn’t return to the Sharks’ eventual 2-1 win against the Blackhawks.

The severity of that injury is currently unknown, but it compounds a tough couple of evenings for Chicago; the Blackhawks failed in this comeback bid and also fell to the Edmonton Oilers by a score of 5-0 on Monday.

Goals like Joel Ward‘s 2-0 tally and this “Circus Trip” likely leaves some players and fans feeling a little weary:

About the only plus for the Blackhawks is that they’re almost finished with this tough stretch.

On the other end of the ice, the San Jose Sharks now enjoy two straight wins after dropping three games in a row. Much like their opponents, they were stumbling a bit on the road, but now they’ve won the first two contests in a five-game homestand.

Martin Jones is also looking pretty sharp once again. After shutting out the New Jersey Devils on Monday, Jones stopped 33 out of 34 shots on goal to edge a mostly game Corey Crawford.

As much as this defeat stings for Chicago, the Blackhawks will likely see Toews’ injury update as the more crucial outcome of the night.

McDavid, Lucic keep hot streak going for Oilers’ offense


Early on as the Edmonton Oilers were succeeding, the feeling was still that they were arguably overly reliant on Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot.

As the Oilers heat up once more, there’s no denying that McDavid is the major catalyst. The frightening thing for opponents is that other players are stepping up as well.

Just consider the variety of forwards who chipped in to Edmonton’s 6-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday:

McDavid: goal, two assists
Milan Lucic: goal, three assists
Leon Draisaitl: goal, assist
Jordan Eberle: two goals
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: goal
Patrick Maroon: assist

Seeing Lucic generate four points is big considering his hefty contract, yet the Oilers must be just as heartened to see Draisaitl get it going.

The 21-year-old is now on a five-game point streak with four goals and four assists. (McDavid has five goals and three assists during his own three-game point streak).

Tonight’s win gives Edmonton three straight victories, and they’ve been lopsided; they’ve outscored their opponents 16-5 during this stretch. Maybe the Oilers really are out of their funk after dropping eight of 10 games.

Uh oh: Toews won’t return for Blackhawks tonight

Ever since Jonathan Toews was noticeably absent from the Chicago Blackhawks’ lineup and bench on Wednesday, people wondered what was wrong in hushed tones. (Just ask CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers.)

Well, we still don’t know much, but the Blackhawks provided this update: he won’t return to tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks.

Update: Myers provides an update that it’s actually upper-body related. Beyond that, the Blackhawks don’t expect to know more until Thursday at the earliest.

Beyond that, it’s basically a mystery. There’s no read yet regarding whether it’s something that will keep him out days, weeks or months.

It’s understandable for Blackhawks fans to fear the worst considering the recent deluge in lengthy injuries to star players, but we’ll just need to wait and see.

Howard powers Red Wings to needed win against Sabres


BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Gustav Nyquist scored in regulation and in a shootout to help the Detroit Red Wings snap a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.

Thomas Vanek also scored in the shootout and had an assist in regulation for the Red Wings, while Brian Gionta scored in regulation for the Sabres.

Jimmy Howard made 32 saves for the Red Wings, and Robin Lehner made 23 saves for the Sabres

After 36 scoreless minutes, the Red Wings went ahead when Nyquist found the back of the net following a spinning pass from Thomas Vanek. The goal was Nyquist’s team-leading fourth of the season.

Buffalo tied it 1:42 into the third when Gionta stuffed a rebound behind Howard. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill challenged the goal, but it stood as called.

The teams traded scoring chances in the 3-on-3 overtime period. Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen had two scoring opportunities but was twice turned away by Howard.

The Red Wings improved to 3-0 in games decided by a shootout this season.

NOTES: Sabres C Ryan O'Reilly returned after missing five games with an oblique injury. … Sabres C Jack Eichel skated with the team Wednesday for the first time since injuring his ankle in practice on Oct. 12, a day before Buffalo’s season opener. Coach Dan Bylsma did not provide a timetable for his return. … Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula got some good news about their NFL team, the Buffalo Bills. WR Sammy Watkins returned to practice for the first time since going on injured reserve with a foot injury. Buffalo got two of its biggest stars back Wednesday, but which is more important? “Well Sammy Watkins, for me,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said. “As much as I love Jack Eichel, he’s not paying any bills for me. Technically, (Eichel) is paying for somebody else in the organization though, isn’t he? But I think, (with) my season tickets – I’d like to see Eichel play. It’s a great question. Obviously, Sammy is such a great talent for us, but man the Sabres need scoring. Tough call.” … Red Wings F Tomas Jurco was assigned to Grand Rapids, Detroit’s AHL affiliate, for conditioning. He’s missed every game this season while recovering from offseason back surgery but is inching closer to a return.


Red Wings: Play at New Jersey on Friday night.

Sabres: Play at Washington on Friday night.