James O'Brien

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

Rangers grind out win in Eric Staal’s quiet debut


Eric Staal didn’t set the world (or Madison Square Garden) on fire during his New York Rangers debut, but a win is a win.

The Rangers beat their old pal Torts and the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 on Monday, riding a Derek Stepan shorthanded game-winner to victory.

This might shock you, but John Tortorella wasn’t very happy about the Stepan goal, pleading the fifth when asked to comment:

Here’s the tally itself:

Staal didn’t make much of an impact, generating a shot on goal and zero points in a little under 16 minutes of ice time.

On the bright side, he seemed to avoid what would have been a pretty frustrating injury:

Eric Staal might not appreciate the novelty of playing with his brother, but Marc seems delighted.

Now, playing for a contender? Eric Staal hasn’t experienced that sensation in some time.

If the Rangers want to go deep, they’ll eventually need Staal to lead the way, at least on certain nights.

Coyotes ugly: Arizona suffers sixth straight loss in 6-0 defeat to Pens


The Arizona Coyotes plummeted to the West basement last season. It’s starting to look like they might see a similar drop toward the end of 2015-16.

They didn’t just lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. Instead, they got destroyed by a score of 6-0, which fits in well with their six-game losing streak.

To some the story of this game was Patric Hornqvist, who collected his first career hat trick and added an assist for good measure. This really might spotlight Arizona’s fall from bubble contender to lottery fodder as well, however.

The Coyotes only have three wins since Jan. 26. This slump isn’t as extreme as the one that saw the Coyotes manage just four wins for about two months in 2014-15, but the broader result may be similar.

Arizona sold off some talent during the trade deadline, so it’s not as if management is in denial. Still, a really bad finish may dampen some of the optimism fans may have developed in seeing strong work, especially from young players like Max Domi and Anthony Duclair.

Hey, at least they ended up with Dylan Strome for their troubles last year, so maybe a big fall might be worth it in the long run.

Patric Hornqvist generates his first hat trick in 488th game


As the final pick of the 2005 NHL Draft, Patric Hornqvist has done some fantastic things in his overachieving career.

It took him until age 29 and regular season game 488 to achieve a specific milestone, however, as he collected his first hat trick as the Pittsburgh Penguins opened up a 4-0 lead against the Arizona Coyotes.

Video will be added to this post when available.

In the meantime, here are all three goals in GIF form.

Report: ‘Ship has sailed’ on a Drouin return to Lightning


Can you step through a door when a ship has already sailed? Probably not.

That’s the imagery combination we’re treated to regarding Jonathan Drouin after the Tampa Bay Lightning decided not to move him during the 2016 trade deadline.

Earlier on Monday, Bolts GM Steve Yzerman extended that peace offering, but TSN’s Frank Seravalli cites an anonymous source who said that the damage has already been done:

Drouin will not be returning to the Lightning. A source close to the situation said “that ship has sailed,” underlining that it is not a possibility.

Yzerman’s offer, which puts the onus back on Drouin, is believed to only include AHL Syracuse and not a return to the Lightning. No matter: even if the offer was extended to join the Lightning before their playoff run, Drouin is not believed to be interested.

The Tampa Tribune’s Erik Erlendsson backs that up while discussing doors:

So there are at least three accounts against Drouin playing for the Lightning again: Seravalli’s report, that tweet from Erlendsson … and common sense.

Re-introduce yourself: Sparks makes nice save in Leafs return

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The Toronto Maple Leafs might be packing it in for next season, but there are plenty of players who have a chance to make an impression on management.

Goalie Garret Sparks is one of them, especially playing against a quality team like the Tampa Bay Lightning with a skeleton crew in front of him.

He has a while to go to make a lasting impact, but providing a highlight here and there doesn’t hurt. Sparks generated one early against the Bolts tonight, as you can see above.