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

No surprise, John Tavares says he’s committed to the Islanders


It’s not fair to say that the New York Islanders are John Tavares and nothing else. There have just been times during the darker moments of this very dark 2016-17 season when it at least feels this way.

With this being such a disappointing start to the season, and with all of the other issues surrounding the Islanders franchise as a whole, it’s understandable if people are wondering about his future with the team.

To little surprise, Tavares is saying all the right things.

“I think for myself, I’ve always shown and talked about my commitment here,’’ Tavares told New York Newsday. “Wanting to have success here and keep building on some of the good things we’ve done. Obviously, this [low] point’s been disappointing.’’

Here’s the one thing we know for sure: he’s signed on with the Islanders through 2017-18.

The rest of that Newsday article discusses his regrets about not generating the points he was expecting to produce, but let’s be honest. Most of us focus on how little support he’s been getting.

Consider his most common linemates: Josh Bailey and a grab bag of other guys. That group is … not ideal.

Now, the Islanders have time to improve the talent around him. Still, how many years is Tavares willing to throw away? Does he want to squander his prime with a franchise that might not be able to put him in position to win a Stanley Cup?

Those are questions that people will probably hammer until we know where Tavares will end up with his next contract.

Don’t blame him, though. He’s saying all the right things.

Video: Pavel Zacha’s boarding major on Denis Malgin


The Florida Panthers are already experiencing issues. Could Denis Malgin be added to the list?

He was able to leave the ice under his own power after a scary-looking boarding hit by New Jersey Devils forward Pavel Zacha on Monday. You can see the hit, which drew a major penalty, in the video above.

Zacha doesn’t have a suspension history in his young career, for whatever that’s worth.

The Panthers just announced that Malgin won’t return because of an upper-body injury.

David Backes’ goal in return to St. Louis: Try not to cry

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When someone returns to a familiar city on a new team, many wonder: will that guy cry during the tribute video? Admit it, you wondered even when stone-faced Shea Weber played his first game against the Predators in Nashville.

David Backes told that he’s going to try to fight it, but he might need a “full Gatorade towel” stashed on the bench as he returns to face the St. Louis Blues as a member of the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

“It’s certainly a date that when you leave, you look forward to, you circle on your calendar,” Backes said. “A myriad of emotions of playing your old teammates, seeing old familiar faces, being in old familiar stomping grounds.”

The Blues are even running their charity event “Barkin’ for the Blues,” which Backes started with his wife, for Jan .10 specifically so he could be involved. With that in mind, he’ll have family at the game, prompting some “wedding day” comparisons for the former Blues captain.

As far as his former teammates go, the Blues say it will – eventually – be like business as usual once the puck drops on Tuesday.

Try telling that to Backes, though. Heck, the team basically provided a tribute video once he signed elsewhere.

More on the departure itself here.

Letestu lands OT winner, Oilers smother Hall and Devils


NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Mark Letestu scored a power-play goal at 3:59 of overtime and Cam Talbot stopped 19 shots as the Edmonton Oilers beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 on Saturday night.

Matthew Benning also scored his first NHL goal for the Oilers who improved to 6-1-2 in the last nine.

Cory Schneider made 41 saves and Miles Wood scored for the Devils.

The Devils’ Travis Zajac was whistled for slashing Connor McDavid with 2:19 remaining on the clock in the extra period, putting Edmonton on the power play. The Oilers converted for the victory on Letestu’s shot from the top of the left circle.

The game featured the first meeting of the clubs since the summer trade that sent defenseman Adam Larsson to Edmonton for left wing Taylor Hall.

Larsson has been a major contributor as Edmonton makes a strong bid reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Hall leads the Devils in scoring despite missing 10 games due to injury. Even with Hall’s contribution, New Jersey has been languishing near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Wood scored the only goal of the opening period as the Devils escaped with the lead despite being outshot 16-7.

The Oilers dominated the early play, using their speed to pepper Schneider with shots. He held his ground, fending off bids from McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl as the Oilers piled up an 11-3 shots advantage.

It was a solid rebound effort by Schneider, who was yanked in the first period of Friday’s 4-2 loss to Toronto after giving up three goals on only five shots.

Wood turned on the jets and sped around defenseman Eric Gryba to tuck a backhander between Talbot’s pads at 9:44.

The Devils continued to cling to the goal lead through the second period even though the Oilers unloaded another 14 shots on Schneider.

Schneider stretch across to deny McDavid’s wraparound bid early in the period and later blocked Letestu’s rebound blast.

At the other end, Talbot faced a few challenges sparked by Hall who set up PA Parenteau for a testing shot, and fired his own drive from left circle that was turned away with a pad save.

The relentless Oilers pressure finally paid off as Benning scored at 3:33 of the third period on Edmonton’s 32nd shot. Matt Hendricks, screening in front of the net, was initially credited with the tally on the point that slipped by Schneider.

Adam Henrique had a golden opportunity from the slot to give the Devils a lead with two minutes left, only to be robbed by Talbot.

NOTES: The game concluded a busy stretch at the Prudential Center with the Devils playing here Friday and Saturday nights. Sandwiched in between was Seton Hall hosting DePaul on Saturday afternoon. . New Jersey placed C Jacob Josefson on injured reserve due to illness and recalled D Yohann Auvitu from Albany (AHL). Auvitu suffered a lower-body injury early in first period and did not return. .. Devils saluted Larsson with a video-board tribute during a first-period stop in play.


Oilers: Conclude a four-game road trip in Ottawa on Sunday.

Devils: Host Florida on Monday.

Flames end Canucks’ winning streak at 6, Chad Johnson gets back on track


It doesn’t get much sweeter than this for Chad Johnson and the Calgary Flames. At least in early January.

The Vancouver Canucks had been on a six-game winning streak while Johnson lost his last four starts. Both of those trends ended on Saturday as Calgary beat its rivals 3-1.

Heck, they even had moments where one Flame hit another Canuck hard enough to turn his helmet into shrapnel. These are the types of wins that Canucks-hating Flames fans probably dream of.

Johnson only allowed a Bo Horvat goal, a sharp turn from his work during that four-game skid when he allowed 15 goals. Brian Elliott then wrestled away the top job with a four-game winning streak that just concluded … and now the door’s open, at least a bit.

Really, the Flames have to be happy for the debate to have a far more positive tone. It sure beats the early season feeling of “How many goalies do we need to bring in until someone starts to actually stop pucks?”

With this win, the Flames have 46 points in 42 games played while the Canucks have 42 in 43. So, even in the bigger picture race of positioning, this outcome is pretty sweet for Calgary.