James O'Brien

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

Let’s find John Tavares some scoring help


Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports that the New York Islanders are “trying hard” to find a forward amid increasing scrutiny of head coach Jack Capuano and their general scorers.

That’s a great idea, because sometimes it’s tough to wonder how John Tavares doesn’t lose his mind considering the lack of support around him.

Although to get a goal-goalscorer, Staple says that GM Garth Snow might need to offer one of Joshua Ho-Sang, Anthony Beauvillier or Mathew Barzal, so keep that in mind as we take a quick run through some potential options for the Islanders:

Names floating around

Some other possibilities

  • Evander Kane‘s name has been attached to trade rumors involving the Vancouver Canucks, but why shouldn’t the Islanders consider him as a reclamation project?
  • Radim Vrbata seemingly plays his best hockey in Arizona, yet the team is always looking to add prospects and/or picks. Perhaps he’d be a lower-rent option, especially since his cheap deal ends after this season? Staple believes the Isles had someone watching the Flames-Coyotes game on Wednesday, for what it’s worth.
  • James van Riemsdyk recently enjoyed arguably his best game as a member of the Maple Leafs. With a roster brimming with young talent that could eventually push him down the lineup, perhaps the Leafs would consider parting with him.
  • This one’s maybe the biggest shot in the dark, but what about Andrew Cogliano? The Anaheim Ducks are always trying to save some bucks, so perhaps the speedy forward could help in Brooklyn? He does already have five goals in 17 games, though on the other hand, he only nine all of last season.


Consider that a bit of brainstorming on this issue for the Islanders, but there are plenty of other options. There’s still hope that Snow will pull another rabbit out of his hat when it comes to identifying a waiver wire bargain, among other possibilities. Or, perhaps instead of trading a player like Ho-Sang, they should call him up and see if he can score himself. Ditto for Michael Dal Colle.

Either way, something needs to change, or else people may start a #SaveJohnTavares hashtag.

Feel free to add your ideas in the comments.

It could have been worse for Wednesday’s losers


Don’t blame the Arizona Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins if they feel a little lucky, even though both teams were on the losing end of their games on Wednesday.

Things could change if each player feels worse in the morning, but at the moment, it seems like Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Matt Murray both avoided injuries.

Look at some of the day’s headlines and you’ll see teams suffering some brutal, possibly season-influencing injuries. The Coyotes lost to one of those teams as the Johnny Gaudreau-less Flames beat them 2-1 in overtime.

(The Penguins, meanwhile, got creamed by the Washington Capitals by a score of 7-1.)

Here’s that scary moment for “OEL.”

Yikes. Ekman-Larsson ended up returning to Wednesday’s game, so it at least appears as though the Coyotes can breathe a sigh of relief.

The Penguins are doing the same as Murray said that he feels “fine” after a mishap where Evgeni Malkin caught him with an errant high-stick. You can read more about that here, but check footage of that below:

So, yes, the Penguins and Coyotes fell short on Wednesday. Pittsburgh, in particular, took a beating.

They don’t need to scroll through too many headlines around PHT to note that it could be much, much worse.

Fabbri took fighting back into Blues lineup literally

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The St. Louis Blues routinely scratch former top overall pick Nail Yakupov, so it’s fair to say that plenty of forwards need to battle for their playing time.

Apparently Robby Fabbri got the memo.

Last Thursday, Ken Hitchcock decided that Fabbri wasn’t get the job done and sat him against the Nashville Predators. Since then, he’s been on a tear … and not just on the scoreboard.

Sure, it’s great that he has three goals in his two games back, but he hasn’t been afraid to mix it up, either. Considering his modest size, that came as a surprise to Josh Gorges, the Buffalo Sabres player he fought in an eventual 4-1 Blues win on Tuesday.

“I don’t know what got into me there, but I just felt like I wanted to be that guy,” Fabbri told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I went out on that shift and asked him. The funny part was, he’s like: ‘Are you serious?’ I’m like, ‘Well, yeah, kinda.’”

You can understand why he said “kinda” by watching the fight in the video above this post’s headline.

Then again, sometimes when it comes to sticking up for your teammates, the thought counts almost as much as the fight.

Phew: Matt Murray says he’s fine after injury scare

As much as a 7-1 loss to the Washington Capitals hurts, at least the Pittsburgh Penguins dodged a bullet regarding goalie Matt Murray.

The Stanley Cup-winning netminder left late in the third period when Evgeni Malkin accidentally high-sticked him (without his mask on) during a scrum. Murray didn’t return to the game, leading to speculation that he might be injured.

Well, there’s some good news on an otherwise dreary night for the Penguins: Murray says he’s “fine.” He went through concussion protocol but could have returned, only head coach Mike Sullivan decided to stick with Marc-Andre Fleury, according to various reporters including the AP’s Stephen Whyno.

You can see that cringe-worthy moment in the video above. Would the Penguins have fared better if they went back to Murray? Considering the fact that they still only managed a meaningless Phil Kessel goal against Washington, it seems silly to lose any sleep over questions like that.

But, hey, the Penguins don’t have to lose sleep about Murray, so that’s a win.

Capitals punishment: Penguins decimated in D.C.


The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins frequently provided hockey fans with thrilling, back-and-forth games. This wasn’t one of those classics.

The first period was a full-fledged disaster for the Penguins, especially for Matt Murray, who was struck by Evgeni Malkin‘s errant stick. Marc-Andre Fleury couldn’t really stop the bleeding either on Wednesday, with Washington eventually winning 7-1.

More about that unfortunate Malkin high-sticking of Murray here.

T.J. Oshie (two goals, two assists) and Nicklas Backstrom (two goals, three assists) stole the show from Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin isn’t sweating it too much, though, as he broke a rare scoring slump with a nice goal in the final frame.

Opposite directions

The Capitals had been stumbling ever-so-slightly lately, only managing one win in their previous four games (1-2-1). This is exactly how they wanted to begin a five-game homestand.

Sidney Crosby and the Penguins came into this on quite a roll, winning three of four and generating a standings point in all but one of their last nine contests (7-1-1). To continue the opposite trends, this loss begins a road-heavy stretch for Pittsburgh.

That run would be that much more daunting if Murray is once again injured, and Malkin’s involvement would add insult to that injury. We’ll have to keep an eye out for updates on that front.

One thing that wasn’t in doubt for very long was this game. The two teams won’t meet again until a Jan. 11 date in Pittsburgh.

Odds are high that it will be a more competitive match than Wednesday’s lopsided affair. (Not that the Capitals are complaining.)