James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Hayes keeps Rangers’ offensive machine humming vs. Oilers

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Hey, did you hear that Kevin Hayes lost 20 lbs. during the off-season?

It’s unclear if a lighter version of that power forward is the real difference right now, but either way, Hayes and the New York Rangers’ offense is just on another level as of late.

From Cam Talbot to Connor McDavid, the Edmonton Oilers enjoyed some great moments on Thursday night, but it wasn’t enough against the rumbling Rangers. New York won 5-3 in a scintillating contest.

The Rangers won a third straight game and managed their sixth win in seven contests. During this three-game winning streak, New York generated a lofty 16-4 goal differential.

And, again, Hayes has been in the thick of things for a guy who lost all that weight. Consider his work during this three-game winning streak:

Tonight: one goal, two assists, nice overall stats including +2
Nov.1 against Blues: one goal, +1
Oct. 30 against Lightning: three assists, +4

Wow.

That’s impressive work for Hayes, a guy who occasionally found himself in Alain Vigneault’s doghouse last season.

The beauty of the situation for the Rangers is that they aren’t counting on Hayes do this every night. Their remarkably deep group of forwards means that they can ride hot hands from night to night, especially if key figures can stay healthy.

It’s the sort of luxury that can take that Big Apple limelight away from Connor McDavid, Cam Talbot and other standouts from Edmonton.

Jets lose Perreault, Armia to injuries

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The Winnipeg Jets lost the first of two games against the Washington Capitals despite a 45-27 shot advantage, and it was looking like they’d be out of luck again going down 3-0. Now it’s 3-3, but sadly for Jets fans, it’s not all good news.

That’s because the team announced that both Mathieu Perreault and Joel Armia won’t return to Thursday’s games thanks to injuries.

Perreault is suffering from an upper-body injury while Armia is a lower-body issue. The team didn’t reveal how severe either issue is, but it’s really a bummer for a Jets team that might have felt like its luck might have been turning, even ever so slightly.

Leafs edge Sabres thanks to Marner, Andersen

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It’s been a rocky start for Frederik Andersen as the No. 1 guy in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ net, but there have been some promising moments lately.

Thursday’s first period against the Buffalo Sabres might dominate his 2016-17 highlight reel, though.

The headliner is the ridiculous lateral movement he showed in stopping what seemed like a certain goal for Zemgus Girgensons. You can see that jaw-dropper in the video above.

For your click’s worth, also enjoy his stops against Matt Moulson from that same, impressive opening frame:

That will silence (or at least lower the volume on) a few critics …

Update: Ultimately, Andersen only needed Mitch Marner‘s two goals on Thursday, as the Maple Leafs beat the Sabres 2-1 in a display of two teams showing early 2016-17 promise.

Video: McDavid’s subtle, clever assist to Nugent-Hopkins

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In many cases, Connor McDavid highlights are about sheer physical skill taking over.

He’s just that fast, and it’s a stunning thing to see him blaze by even speedy NHL skaters.

Still, hockey fans get jazzed about the “little things” – remember how nuts people went for Mario Lemieux’s “pass” to Paul Kariya for an Olympic goal? – and McDavid provided a nice bit of subtle creativity on Thursday. Watch his little “kick-pass” to set up Ryan Nugent-Hopkins‘ first goal of 2016-17:

Good grief, Kings: Andreoff placed on IR, too

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Look, losing Andy Andreoff isn’t going to “break” the Los Angeles Kings, but maybe it feels like that last straw.

The Kings placed Andreoff on IR on Thursday, continuing a trend that’s gotten downright ridiculous. Let’s ponder the players this ailing team is missing and how long they may be out, with some help from Rotoworld’s listings:

Andreoff, IR, day-to-day
Tom Gilbert, suspended for three games, available Nov. 10
Brayden McNabb, IR, week-to-week
Jeff Zatkoff, IR, day-to-day
Jonathan Quick, IR, indefinite absence
Marian Gaborik, IR, expected back sometime in November, maybe

Yeah … that’s pretty absurd.

In Andreoff’s case, the 25-year-old is dealing with an upper-body injury.

Again, Andreoff’s the sort of depth guy who’d likely be pretty happy if he hits 10 minutes of ice time in a particular game, but the cupboard’s getting awfully bare in Los Angeles.

Can that shorthanded group finally score a goal? We’ll see against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.