Mike Milbury’s hat trick: Bruins and Flyers tops in East by a landslide

Each week here at ProHockeyTalk, NHL on NBC’s Mike Milbury gives us his take on three hot topics of discussion around the league. We’re happy to have Mike join us and give us his unique and fiery opinions on what’s going on in the NHL.

1. The Bruins just finished their six game road trip, can we just fast forward to a Flyers-Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals now or what?

I think so. I really think so. Pittsburgh seems to be mortally wounded. Washington is dangerous but I don’t like the biorhythms for them right now. They barely beat out the Islanders their last two games, and give the Islanders credit they’re a much tougher team than anyone realizes.

Who else is there that you’re careful of? Ryan Miller of Buffalo could cause some agitation for people if Buffalo makes it. Carolina is sort of in and out and Tampa is a bit of a wild card. I’m not convinced they’ve got the depth on the blue line but they’ve got the offensive fire power and Dwayne Roloson’s been known to get hot at the right time. If I ranked them out I’d put them Philly, Boston, Washington, and Tampa Bay.

If I had to pick one of either Philadelphia or Boston right now I’d probably lean towards Philadelphia with the caveat being their goaltending is unproven in playoff situations. Tim Thomas has been just remarkable and they’ve hit a pattern here of how to handle Thomas. In the past he’s proven to get tired and I think it’s more mentally than physically tiring than anything. He’s so focused and has to prepare so hard and plays with such passion that it just wears down on him.

They’ve been able to use Tuukka Rask on this road trip and get him involved and that helps Thomas immensely. They’re probably the best tandem in the league right now.

I like the Philly defense a little bit better than the Boston defense but not by a long shot and I kind of shade towards the Flyers a bit towards offense. But if Michael Ryder and Nathan Horton who are starting to emerge a bit and playing to the level the Bruins think they can then it’s a pretty even match-up.

2. With Dallas clear of the Brad Richards speculation, do you like how they sit in the West?

I like their chances with Richards back in the lineup and they can certainly be dangerous, but I don’t like their chances against San Jose, Detroit, or Vancouver. Richards is a great talent and they’ve got some great talent elsewhere on that team, but they’re not that same level.

Detroit is loaded with veteran players and their goaltending has been a bit of an issue with Jimmy Howard lately. Chris Osgood is on the horizon too but I love that GM Kenny Holland saw fit to give Howard an extension because it takes some of the edge off and it gives a load of confidence to him.

Dallas when compared to those three teams though comes up a bit short.

3. Pittsburgh’s got James Neal and Alex Kovalev now… Can the Penguins win without Sidney Crosby or are they dead in the water?

Without Crosby and Evgeni Malkin they’re just another team in the playoffs. They’re a good team, not a great team. They’re not a Stanley Cup team without Crosby and Malkin and I can say that with complete confidence. They’ll give some teams some hassles, they’ve got some guys that play really hard. Kris Letang is a tremendous defenseman, Marc-Andre Fleury is an excellent goaltender but they just don’t have the go-to guys.

Who can survive losing their top two offensive players, never mind two of the top five forwards in the National Hockey League. Common sense just dictates that while they’ll make it to the playoffs they’re not going to get past either Boston or Philadelphia in the playoffs.

Logan Couture can at least speak and eat following horrifying mouth injury

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As much as many of us suffer during a trip to the dentist, few can fathom the horrors hockey players often go through when a puck, stick or fist finds their teeth/mouths. Consult this vintage PHT post from 2010 if you want to cringe, a lot.

Much like Eddie Lack “only” dealing with a neck sprain, it’s strange to be heartened to hear that Logan Couture can speak and eat after his own painful ordeal, but that’s the positive update from the Mercury News on Tuesday.

Couture, Wilson said, did not need to have his jaw wired shut after a deflected puck caught him in the mouth on Saturday when the Sharks played the Nashville Predators.

“Hey, he can speak and eat … and his jaw isn’t wired shut!” Yeesh.

To little surprise, Couture isn’t playing on Tuesday. As far as the Sharks next three games (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), that remains to be seen.

As an aside, consider this: on the same day Jonathan Drouin‘s celebrating his birthday after helping the Lightning win, Couture is lucky if he can force down some birthday cake. Life: it isn’t always fair.

PHT discussed his trip to the dentist on Monday.

More mouth pain: When David Backes felt like his face was falling off.

Athanasiou got hurt during that Lack collision, too (and he blames Rask’s hit)

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The Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings both exchanged signs of respect after Eddie Lack left last night’s game on a stretcher, but there’s a little controversy surrounding that situation … from the Red Wings’ perspective.

You see, Andreas Athanasiou may not have collided with Lack if not for a shove/cross-check by Hurricanes forward Victor Rask.

Athanasiou is out for the Red Wings tonight, and as the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James reports, he blames the Rask hit.

Here’s a screen grab of that moment via NBCSN/the Fox Sports broadcast:

Now, check it out in full motion:

It’s unfortunate that two injuries came of that overtime-clincher, though one may at least mildly defend Rask in noting that Athanasiou was really displaying his blazing speed on that play.

The Red Wings could very well be eliminated tonight, or soon, but Athanasiou has been a bright spot during a sometimes-glum season for Detroit. Hopefully, like Lack, this is merely a minor issue from an unfortunate collision.

More promising Eddie Lack news: Hurricanes label his injury a neck strain

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Yes, it feels a little weird to “cheer” a neck strain, but such injury news feels pretty fantastic for Eddie Lack.

The Carolina Hurricanes announced that he’s dealing with exactly that on Tuesday morning, not that long after Lack’s scare after being stretchered off the ice following a collision with Detroit Red Wings Andreas Athanasiou.

Lack ended up being hospitalized, but as it turns out, that was a pretty short-term situation.

With the positive news in mind, it’s already appropriate to wonder when Lack might be back, particularly since he’s been on quite a tear during Carolina’s unlikely push for a possible playoff spot. The Hurricanes didn’t provide a window of time for his recovery, and Lack himself was vague-if-positive:

In the mean time, the Hurricanes recalled Alex Nedeljkovic, who one would assume would primarily back up Cam Ward.

So, long story short: things seem very positive for Lack, though his rehab process remains cloudy.

Bruins recall McIntyre from AHL on emergency basis

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Update: As it turns out, Anton Khudobin might be the goalie dealing with an injury, according to the Boston Herald’s Steve Conroy. So, tonight’s starter boils down to Tuukka Rask or Zane McIntyre.

(Rask it is.)

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Tuukka Rask was supposed to be back in goal for the Boston Bruins tonight.

But then, just a couple of hours before their game with the Nashville Predators, the B’s announced they’d recalled goalie Zane McIntyre from the AHL on an emergency basis.

It’s not yet clear why McIntyre was recalled. Rask missed Saturday’s game in Brooklyn with a lower-body injury, but coach Bruce Cassidy said earlier today that Rask was healthy and ready to go.

“Tuukka is healthy,” said Cassidy. “That’s what he indicated to me and that’s all I needed to hear. He’ll be our starter tonight.”

If Rask is unable to play, expect Anton Khudobin to get the nod.

Khudobin backstopped the B’s to a 2-1 victory over the Isles on Saturday.