Mike Milbury’s Hat Trick: Bertuzzi’s elbow, Buffalo’s playoff hopes, return of Sidney Crosby

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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. Todd Bertuzzi escaped punishment for his elbow to the head of Chicago’s Ryan Johnson. Do you think the league is being inconsistent in their handling of blows to the head?

No, I don’t think so. It’s tough being totally consistent when every hit is different. It was a reckless play that deserved to be called. It was just stupid technique and it merited a major and was properly punished, I guess. I guess they felt it wasn’t severe enough. He went in recklessly but not with any intent. That’s the way I view it.

Do you think Bertuzzi’s mid-game apology to Johnson played a part in helping him get off?

No, it shouldn’t. If I kill your wife and went in and apologized to you five minutes later, I still killed your wife.

2.  Some nights the Sabres look unbeatable, others they’re getting beaten by teams they shouldn’t lose to. How do you like the Sabres chances in the playoffs?

Well… I don’t think they’ve got a ton of offensive weapons, they’ve got a couple. They rely on their goaltender an awful lot. They’ve still got a chance to make it but I certainly don’t put them in the top echelon of the Eastern Conference. As we all know anybody that makes it has a chance to advance so you can’t rule them out.

Of all the teams you’re looking at, realistically, the one that would make you happy in terms of a draw right now would be Buffalo, Tampa second because they’ve muddled along for a while now. But… Be careful what you wish for.

3.  Sidney Crosby was cleared to skate on game days with the Penguins today. He’s not practicing yet, but do you see him taking the ice with the team in the playoffs?

I think they’ve got to be really careful with him. They should be really careful with him. He’s an incredibly valuable asset to the organization and to the league. I saw him practice a bit on tape, just one-on-one stuff and he looked good enough to buy a ticket to watch just practice. It was an impressive little display that he put on.

They’ve got to go through the whole rigmarole of easing him back in and being careful. I can’t play doctor, he certainly looked good enough to me during his little workout session but once contact comes along who knows. I think everyone is encouraged by his progress and hopeful but… If he’s not going to make it back it won’t be for a lack of trying.

Fight Video: Lappin, Puempel land some good shots in preseason tilt

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Who says players don’t care about preseason hockey?

Matt Puempel and Nick Lappin are trying to earn spots on their respective clubs, so they know they may have to do the little things others aren’t willing to do to stick around in the NHL.

On Wednesday night, that involved dropping the gloves against each other. These two seemed to be in mid-season form when it came to throwing punches.

Neither player is considered a tough guy. Lappin had 17 penalty minutes in 43 games with the Devils last season, while Puempel has 28 penalty minutes in 79 career NHL games.

Here’s the video footage of the scrap:

By the way, the Rangers won 4-3 in overtime.

Kings outlast Canucks in first edition of NHL China Games

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The Los Angeles Kings came away with a 5-2 preseason win over the Vancouver Canucks in the first of the 2017 NHL China Games. This contest took place in lovely Shanghai.

Adrian Kempe got the ball rolling for Kings, as he scored the first goal of the game on the power play to make it 1-0 for his team (top).

Kings forward Tanner Pearson scored a great shorthanded breakaway goal to extend Los Angeles’ lead to 2-0 (check out the Pearson goal by clicking the video below).

The shorthanded goal against wasn’t the only issue the Canucks power play had in this game. Vancouver managed to score once on the man-advantage, but they finished the game 1-for-14 in that department (yes, it’s only a preseason game).

with Vancouver trailing 3-0 in the second period, Sven Baertschi finally got them on the board to cut the Kings lead to 3-1.

Markus Granlund made it 3-2 in the third period, but that’s as close as the Canucks would come to tying the score.

Pearson extended Los Angeles’ lead to 4-2 before Jeff Carter finished off the game with an empty-net goal.

These two teams will meet again in Beijing on Saturday at 3:30 a.m. ET.

Krug to be re-evaluated in three weeks after taking puck to jaw

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Torey Krug‘s 2017 training camp is officially over.

The Bruins defenseman suffered a non-displaced fracture in his jaw after taking a puck to the face in Tuesday’s preseason game against the Red Wings.

General Manager Don Sweeney expects Krug to be re-evaluated in three weeks, which means he could miss Boston’s regular-season opener against Nashville on Oct. 5.

Losing Krug for any regular season games would be huge for the Bruins, as he had eight goals and 51 points in 81 games last season.

In other injury news, the Bruins also announced that forward Matt Beleskey (foot contusion) is day-to-day. He was hurt in Boston’s preseason opener against Montreal on Monday.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (upper body) is also day-to-day. He was injured against the Red Wings, too.

Caps’ Vrana hoping to earn spot with Ovechkin, Kuznetsov

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It looks like the Washington Capitals are going to give Jakub Vrana the opportunity of a lifetime.

Washington has given the young winger a chance to earn a spot on the right side of the top line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.

On Wednesday night, they got to put the chemistry to the test, as Vrana and the Caps played the Canadiens in Montreal.

Vrana finished the game with a power play goal (an innocent shot that went off Canadiens defenseman Brandon Davidson and in the net). Kuznetsov and Ovechkin registered the assists on the goal and the Caps won 4-2.

“We played fast today,” Vrana said, per the Washington Post. “We had some passes today, some chances. It’s always a good sign when you have chances. … You’re going to be confident when you play with guys like this. You’re just going to be confident on the ice with the puck. Just play fast and build some chemistry there.”

The 21-year-old got his first taste of real NHL action last season, but the production simply wasn’t there (three goals and three assists in 21 games). But the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft did put up solid numbers in the AHL, as he had 36 points in 49 games last year and 34 points in 36 games with the Hershey Bears two years ago.

“He gets to space,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He gets on the puck because he moves his legs and his speed is noticeable. Kuzy can get him the puck, and getting down ice, he can put some pressure to create a forecheck, too. He worked hard today, and I think we keep putting him with top players, because we think he’s going to be a top player.”