James O'Brien

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

Kessel, Penguins win high-scoring game against Red Wings


The Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings exchanged plenty of chances in a wide-open start to Thursday’s game, and they rarely slowed down after that.

Ultimately, the Penguins out-gunned the Red Wings, generating a 6-3 win.

At first, it was the Penguins’ supporting cast doing much of the work, as Matt Cullen scored a goal and an assist in the first period.

Scott Wilson also scored the first goal of his NHL career:

The usual suspects took over from there, with Phil Kessel generating two goals and Sidney Crosby grabbing an assist and an empty-netter.

Petr Mrazek didn’t make it through the entire game, but let’s give the goalies credit: it was a difficult contest for netminders, as high-level skill was often on display. Marc-Andre Fleury had some great moments in grabbing 22nd win of the season:

The Penguins and Red Wings can’t just coast to the playoffs this season. Still, games like these argue that both teams can put on a fun show if they make it.

Uh oh, Anze Kopitar suffered a lower-body injury


Sometimes a team navigates a big road trip without much trouble. The Los Angeles Kings haven’t been so fortunate.

Thursday could prove to be a costly day even if the Kings manage to come back against the St. Louis Blues, as crucial star Anze Kopitar is questionable to return after suffering a lower-body injury.

It’s difficult to pinpoint when, exactly, Kopitar was hurt. In fact, some wonder if it’s a nagging issue that’s carrying over from another game.

Drew Doughty had a rough moment on Thursday, as well:

… And, again, it’s been a challenging seven-game road trip.

The best news for the Kings? This challenging road trip ends in Nashville on Saturday.

Video: The injured ref epidemic continues


Are referee/linesman injuries this season’s answer to the mumps?

It’s getting kind of weird, as another official was on the wrong end of on-ice play during Thursday’s Capitals – Islanders game. In this case, Steve Miller was struck by a puck, as you can see from the video above.

(At least, in this case, there wasn’t an accidental/maybe not-so-accidental body check on a ref.)

Then again, maybe it’s just Miller who’s having a bad day?

Previous “cases”

Dennis Wideman’s notorious collision

Wrong place at the wrong time

Video: Leo Komarov gets ejected for hit to Ryan McDonagh’s head


The New York Rangers must worry about another head injury for Ryan McDonagh mere days after he returned from concussion issues.

In the latest instance, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov delivered the blow. It was a pretty decisive decision for officials: they gave Komarov a match penalty for illegal hit to the head.

Full video of the check will be added in an update to this post, but here’s a GIF via My Regular Face for now:

Many Rangers onlookers were not happy with the hit, to say the least.

Should the Leafs’ 2016 All-Star Game representative receive a suspension for that check, or is it enough that he’s been ejected?

Not the best sign that McDonagh hasn’t returned:

Joe Sakic shares Avs’ trade deadline shopping list


The Colorado Avalanche are in a dogfight for a playoff spot, so rentals could be alluring, but GM Joe Sakic insists that they won’t pay a big long-term price for a short-term boost.

Sakic laid out the specific things he’s been looking for heading into the trade deadline in a press conference on Thursday. You can watch five-plus minutes of Sakic laying out details in the video at the bottom of this post, but here are the basics:

  • Like many other teams, Sakic tried to land a top-four defenseman, but no one’s really making those key assets available.
  • Hockey Buzz’s Rick Sadowski points out that Sakic is looking for a “puck-management forward” (is this a gesture toward bumping those bad possession stats up?) and a “solid” defenseman. So, does the latter entail a better-than-averaging bottom-pairing blueliner since top four guys aren’t available?
  • Again, the Avs may be interested in rentals, but don’t want to give up a high-end draft pick unless that player can provide a boost beyond 2015-16.
  • Veteran winger Alex Tanguay may or may not be available, according to Adrian Dater by way of BSN Avalanche.

So, what kind of players should teams pitch Sakic’s way? Do you think the Avalanche are taking the right approach to the trade deadline?

(Again, they’re in the playoffs at the moment, but opponents are closer than they appear because they have games in hand on Colorado.)

Here’s the Sakic presser: