James O'Brien

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

Positive injury news for Stamkos, other Lightning players


Injury updates are frequently “glass half-empty/half-full” propositions, but the playoffs tend to magnify that optimism vs. pessimism.

With that in mind, Sunday’s injury updates for the Tampa Bay Lightning could be seen as a stream of positive news … or a lot of teasing.

The general feeling is that there were at least baby steps in the right direction.

Most importantly, or at least most hopefully, Steven Stamkos participated in full gear and even spent some time during various drills (including some penalty kill practice).

The half-empty part is that nothing major really changed beyond that positive sign:

The Lightning need to practice due diligence with Stamkos, after all.

Really, the more tangibly positive news might just be that Anton Stralman‘s return could be looming.

While he didn’t practice this morning, there’s at least a chance Ben Bishop could play for Tampa Bay against Pittsburgh in Game 2 on Monday.

(Still remarkable.)

Also, Tyler Johnson appears to be fine after that knee-to-knee hit with Chris Kunitz.

Looking at the above updates, maybe it would be more accurate to say that the glass is three-quarters-full?

Is Olli Maatta in Mike Sullivan’s doghouse?


In a short period of time, Olli Maatta may find himself going from the injured list to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ doghouse.

It sounds like Mike Sullivan wasn’t particularly happy with Maatta’s performance in Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and that might prompt Maatta to be replaced by Justin Schultz.

That’s not the only blueline situation to watch, either, as Brian Dumoulin apparently avoided any major injury from that check by Lightning forward Ondrej Palat.

Sullivan wasn’t happy with Maatta’s positioning on this Alex Killorn 1-0 goal from Game 1:

Will that be enough to get the young defenseman benched? We’ll see. If nothing else, the Penguins have some options.

Oh, and Sullivan isn’t being coy about the Penguins’ starting goalie any longer.

Greiss helps Germany score rare upset of U.S. at worlds

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Thomas Greiss might not be in the playoffs any longer, but he’s still playing some meaningful hockey.

In Sunday’s case, that meant doing something we haven’t seen in more than 20 years: leading Germany to a win against the United States at the worlds.

Greiss made 31 saves while Korbinan Holzer scored the game-winner with less than a minute remaining in regulation.

In the spirit of that tournament, here are some random highlights that are likely to entertain you:

DeBoer doesn’t think fatigue will be an edge for Sharks vs. Blues


Two games might not seem like much, but really, it’s all about what happens during those two games.

A blocked shot can lead to a “lower-body injury.” Someone could “turn into a hit at the last minute” and so on. Of course, two games could really just mean several extra shifts … and maybe opportunities to build up that extra confidence.

So far during the postseason, the St. Louis Blues went the distance with two full seven-game series. The San Jose Sharks were pushed to a Game 7 against the Nashville Predators, yet they dispatched the Los Angeles Kings in five.

With that in mind, does Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer think that fatigue could play to San Jose’s advantage?

“That’s a good question,” DeBoer said. “As the series goes on, maybe. I don’t think it’s an advantage early. Pretty limited travel through the first two rounds.”

“I think even though they’ve gone seven games, they’re healthy. I don’t anticipate us having an advantage. We’ll see as the series goes on whether it catches up.”

That’s the thing … as far as we know, the Blues are healthy.

That’s a funny turn, too, considering how injury-ravaged St. Louis was during the regular season. (The Sharks can sort of relate now that they have Logan Couture at full-strength.)

If you’re looking for big prognostications, don’t go to DeBoer. He doesn’t think that home-ice advantage will be much of a factor, either.

… Unless it is.


Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight


Saturday was that dreaded preview of the summer: a night without the NHL.

(There wasn’t even some NBA postseason to cushion the blow.)

Thankfully, there are still two rounds of exciting, high-tension hockey before we stare at the abyss known as the off-season. The Western Conference Final kicks off on Sunday.

San Jose at St. Louis (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 1 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Some posts that will get you ready:

No panic in Robby Fabbri‘s game.

– Ken Hitchcock explains his preference for one-year contracts.

– St. Louis wants to be “Canada’s team.”

Logan Couture is in top form.

– After all these letdowns, one of the Sharks or Blues will rep the West in the Stanley Cup Final.