James O'Brien

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

WATCH LIVE: Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Islanders

So far, things haven’t gone as planned for the Tampa Bay Lightning (5-4-0) or the New York Islanders (4-5-0). Tuesday presents an opportunity to build up some momentum.

While it’s been a bumpy start, there’s still plenty of talent on both sides. There should be plenty of star power on hand as John Tavares takes on Steven Stamkos & Co.

Watch the action online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

For more on Lightning – Islanders (and Coyotes – Sharks, the second half of tonight’s doubleheader), check out this preview.

Dylan Strome gets a big chance with Coyotes tonight

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If you want another hook for tonight’s Arizona Coyotes – San Jose Sharks game on NBCSN, keep an eye on Coyotes rookie Dylan Strome.

While tons of young players are making an impression so far in 2016-17, Strome’s been a regular healthy scratch. He last got in the Coyotes lineup on Oct. 21, but he’s getting back in tonight.

His return to the lineup isn’t the only reason he’ll be interesting to watch, as it looks like he’ll form an intriguing line with Jamie McGinn and Anthony Duclair. That’s quite the opportunity to make an impression.

“Hopefully we’ll see his level rise,” Dave Tippett said. ” … We could use his skill in there.”

It’s also interesting to note that Tippett said Strome has been working with the team’s skating coach:

Strome has one assist to show for his three games so far. To be fair to the 19-year-old, he was only averaging about 13 minutes per contest, so maybe this will be more of a “real” chance?

Tippett repeatedly notes how convenient it is to send players to the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate, yet as Five for Howling notes, the team is in a bind because they can’t do that with Strome. They face the decision of either burning a year off of his entry-level contract with the big club or sending him back to junior (where he has little left to prove).

His performance against the Sharks could make a big difference in that decision-making process.

‘What a team is all about’ – Sens, Oilers on Anderson’s night


With incredible emotion in the air, Craig Anderson put together a performance many hockey fans will never forget.

Neither will his teammates or his opponents.

Anderson returned to the ice for the first time since announcing that his wife, Nicholle, has been diagnosed with cancer.

You can read more about Anderson’s 37-save shutout in the Ottawa Senators’ 2-0 win against the Edmonton Oilers here, but hearing individuals reflect on this emotional night really drives the point home.

“That’s what a team is all about,” Connor McDavid said. “Obviously it’s a terrible thing that’s going on … his team battled hard and pulled out a great thing for him.”

The Oilers provided some fantastic gestures, from fans giving Anderson a standing ovation after the game to Cam Talbot sticking around to applaud his efforts.

It’s something both sides acknowledged after the game.

Sometimes in sports, language is used to dramatize what is ultimately a game, with athletes flippantly labeled “warriors.” Even so, it was moving how often the word “family” came up in the Senators’ reactions:

As much as sadness as this story evokes, it’s touching to see both sides support Anderson.

Those feelings override the X’s and O’s, as Bobby Ryan said, and they even make it easy to forget just how splendid Anderson was in Ottawa’s net on Sunday.

Craig Anderson shuts out Oilers on emotional night

You know you’ve done something special when you’re getting a standing ovation after a road game.

That’s exactly what happened in Edmonton on Sunday, and Craig Anderson deserved those cheers.

Even if you ignore the personal factors, shutting out the high-octane Edmonton Oilers is quite a feat. And it’s not like the Oilers were pulling any punches in the Ottawa Senators’ 2-0 win.

But, of course, context makes a great performance something special, and more emotional.

Senators GM Pierre Dorion revealed why the goalie had left the team for personal reasons: Nicholle Anderson, Craig’s wife, has been diagnosed with cancer. Even so, with his team hit dealing with goalie injury issues, she gave him her blessing to play on Sunday.

In his first game back with an emotional team in front of him, Anderson generated a 37-save shutout. He’s now on a two-game shutout streak. It’s the sort of accomplishment that’s as awe-inspiring as it is tear-jerking.

His teammates were showing him support heading into the game:

… But with Cam Talbot staying after the game to show his support for Anderson after the game, and Oilers fans cheering his great performance, it seems clear that he’s in the thoughts of the hockey community as a whole.

Grabner grabs hat trick as Rangers dominate Lightning


The New York Rangers made it a point to load up on forwards this summer, and it’s been paying off nicely. Sunday might have been the best display of that strength.

Despite getting Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Callahan back, the Tampa Bay Lightning had no answer for the Rangers’ arsenal as New York won 6-1.

That included Michael Grabner generating the third hat trick of his career and his first trio since Feb. 2011.

Naturally with such a lopsided game, Grabner wasn’t the only Rangers forward who stood out. Linemates J.T. Miller (one goal, two assists) and Kevin Hayes (three assists) got in on the fun, Jimmy Vesey scored yet another goal and Rick Nash enjoyed a one-goal, one-assist night.

It’s a harsh way to emphasize the tough stretch Tampa Bay is enduring.