Mike Milbury

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.

Video: Tyler Bozak with some saucy moves on this goal

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It’s refreshing that hockey fans have, for the most part, moved on from debating Tyler Bozak‘s merits.

The general feeling is that the Toronto Maple Leafs use him in appropriate ways these days, so we can simply enough his work as a pretty spiffy hockey player.

Speaking of spiffy, check out the sweet moves he made against the Minnesota Wild for the goal above. Feels like you could dub over a Chris Berman “whoop” or two in there, right?

(If you’re into that kind of thing.)

Here’s that gaudy move in isolation and in GIF form:

WATCH LIVE: Bruins at Capitals – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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Even with two games in hand, some might be surprised to see the Washington Capitals tied with the Boston Bruins in standings points in early December.

That’s the case on Wednesday Night Rivalry, as a somewhat up-and-down Capitals team (which is glad to welcome T.J. Oshie back) hosts a Bruins squad that’s riding a three-game winning streak.

It should be an interesting matchup on NBCSN, which you can also watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Rangers mostly dodge a bullet: Nash only expected to miss a week

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06: Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers moves the puck along the boards during the second period against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 6, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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No one wants to hear “It could be worse” when injuries are really piling up, but … uh, it could be worse for the New York Rangers.

At least, it could have been worse for Rick Nash. The team announced that he’s only expected to miss about a week after undergoing an MRI related to a groin injury.

It’s been a redemptive season for Nash, so it’s nice to see that it isn’t getting totally derailed. Granted, injuries like these can linger even if a guy returns to the lineup, so we’ll need to see if he gets back to 100 percent.

The Rangers certainly aren’t at full-strength right now. Their laundry list of injured forwards is quite daunting, even for a team with vaunted depth at that position:

(It sounds like Pavel Buchnevich is still quite a ways from returning, sadly.)

Alain Vigneault sells the biggest benefit of these issues: opportunities for other players – including Oscar Lindberg – to step up.

“I just think this is part of the NHL and it is what it is. It’s there and you deal with it,” Vigneault said . “You get a lot of players at different times that wish that they can get more ice time to prove that they can have a bigger role and that they can do more. Well, no better time than the present for us right now.”

Double whammy to Habs centers: Galchenyuk, Desharnais out 6-8 weeks

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 08:  Alex Galchenyuk #27 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on November 8, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Thanks to two knee injuries, the Montreal Canadiens suddenly seem pretty slim at center.

The team announced two unfortunate and strangely similar timelines for important centers: both Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais are expected to miss six-to-eight weeks with their knee issues.

It will be a challenge for Michel Therrien to make everything work, to the point where you wonder if maybe he’ll move a player from the wing to center (hey, Max Pacioretty DOES want an elevated role, if you believe the rumors about discontent).

Tomas Plekanec becomes that much more important to the Canadiens, and one might assume that Andrew Shaw may go back to the middle. LNH.com’s Arpon Basu listed some options, in case you’re more of a visual learner:

Yeah, not ideal.

The road ahead

It isn’t all bad news when you look at Montreal’s overall situation.

For one thing, they gave themselves a nice cushion, as they currently lead the Atlantic Division by five points. With four games in a row and six of seven at home, they may be able to manage these tough losses pretty well in the short-term.

The real challenges might come late in December and early in January. They play seven road games in a row – though with a break around New Year’s – and nine of 10 away from Montreal from Dec. 23 – Jan. 12.

While they’ve suffered some minor bumps in the road so far, this is their truest test of 2016-17. It should be interesting to see how they handle this.