James O'Brien

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

Video: Healthy Malkin scores first goal since Jan. 23

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The Pittsburgh Penguins stand as a potential spoiler if they can hold onto a playoff spot just by the way they’ve been playing lately.

But how dangerous could they be if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are actually at full strength this fall? (It seemingly doesn’t happen that way very often.)

That’s a fun thought for Penguins fans and scary one for East rivals, although Malkin has a way to go before he’s 100 percent.

Wherever he is now, Malkin’s looking dangerous. He scored his first goal, since Jan. 23 in his third game back from missing multiple weeks with a lower-body injury.

You can watch in the video above this post’s headline.

Advantage Connor: McDavid scores seconds into first game vs. Eichel


If Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby isn’t enough for you tonight, there’s also Connor McDavid vs. Jack Eichel.

Much like Ovechkin and Crosby, McDavid and Eichel aren’t experiencing a ton of team success in their rookie seasons, but you don’t have to watch long to see both players do dazzling things.

In Tuesday’s case, you didn’t even need to wait a minute into McDavid’s first shift to see him score a goal. Enjoy that clip in the video above.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals


Consider this: if the playoffs began today, fans would be treated to a marquee first-round matchup between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

(Does that make Caps fans at least a little nervous?)

As much as some groan about any mention of Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin, they’re both huge stars, and they’re supported by some other great talents on display tonight.

You can watch a bout between the East and NHL-leading Capitals vs. the intriguing wild card (in more ways than one) Penguins on NBCSN. It’s also available for streaming via the link below.


Brayden Schenn’s first hat trick helps Flyers cool Flames


Patric Hornqvist wasn’t the only player who generated his first career hat trick on Monday.

Brayden Schenn accomplished that feat, too, guiding the Philadelphia Flyers to an important 5-3 win against the Calgary Flames.

Schenn is on quite the hot streak as his contract year enters its stretch run. He now has six points during a three-game point streak and 12 points in his past eight contests.

That’s a well-timed run of momentum considering Philly’s tough news from today, as Jakub Voracek is expected to miss about two weeks with a lower-body injury.

The Flyers are going to need a lot from guys like Schenn as well as Wayne Simmonds, who enjoyed a two-goal game of his own.

Sure, there were tense moments when the Flyers saw a 4-1 margin slim to 4-3 before Simmonds’ insurance goal locked things up, but Philly’s going to need to find ways to win (and some of them might be ugly).

It remains to be seen if the Flyers can keep pace with their buddies in Pittsburgh and the rest of the East’s bubble bunch, and Schenn has a golden opportunity to profit off of this bid.

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.