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Should Miles Wood be suspended after boarding Vladislav Namestnikov? (Video)

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

He won’t have much of a defense, it would seem.

New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood took off his responsible thinking cap on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In the second period, Woods came barrelling in on the Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov. The latter had already ushered the puck up the ice, and with his back turned to Woods, the Devils sophomore appeared to leave his feet, driving his shoulder into the nameplate of Namestnikov’s jersey.

If that wasn’t enough, Andrej Sustr came in to defend his teammate and paid the price at the hands of Wood, who broke his visor with a punch, leaving Sustr bloodied.

Wood was given a boarding minor on the play and an additional two minutes for roughing after he left Sustr in a mess. It wouldn’t be at all shocking if Wood is summoned by the NHL’s player safety department.

[UPDATE: Devils’ Miles Wood suspended two games for boarding]

Both Namestnikov and Sustr had to leave the game, but both returned in the third period.

The Devils won the game 4-3. Guess who scored the game-winner…


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

McAvoy has goal, assist as Bruins top Lightning 3-2

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Charlie McAvoy had a goal and added a helper as the Boston Bruins knocked off the NHL’s top team in a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night on NBCSN.

The resurgent Bruins have now won five of their past six games after losing their previous four and leapfrogged the Detroit Red Wings into third place in the Atlantic Division.

Boston welcomed some reinforcements on Wednesday with the return of Brad Marchand, who had missed eight of the past 10 games for Boston, and David Backes, who had been out since Oct. 30 because of colon surgery.

Marchand chipped in with two assists, one on McAvoy’s opener and a second on Riley Nash’s slick wrist shot to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead after a 19-shot performance in the first period.

The Bruins continued the shelling in the second, firing 13-more on Andrei Vasilevskiy, who played a stellar game despite the result, finishing with 33 saves.

After two periods, Boston had outshot the Lightning 32-12, but Andrej Sustr was able to pot his first of the season to cut Boston’s lead to 3-1 after Torey Krug scored what eventually would be the game-winning goal to make it 3-0.

Tampa Bay played with a little more purpose in the third period and Steven Stamkos retained NHL points lead with his 11th goal of the season on a nice tic-tac-toe play in the third period.

Stamkos (37 points) leads teammate Kucherov by one point. Kucherov assisted on Stamkos’ marker, giving him at least one point in 20 of 25 games this season.

Tuukka Rask stood tall, stopping nine third period shots for just his fourth win of the season.

The Lightning has lost four of their past six games but remains atop of the Eastern Conference with 36 points.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: T.J. Oshie has special bond with young cancer patient

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–We know that Connor McDavid is really good at hockey, but like the rest of us there are certain things he just can’t do. He’s not a morning person, he can’t cook, and dealing with spiders isn’t a strength of his. (ESPN.com)

–The Rangers had a lot of scouts on hand to watch Monday’s game between Ottawa and Montreal. Could they be after Canadiens forwards Alex Galchenyuk and/or Andrew Shaw? (NY Post)

–The Toronto Maple Leafs got off to a hot start, but they’ve now dropped four of their last five games. Head coach Mike Babcock isn’t going to tolerate this slide going much further, so he decided to make huge changes at practice. Patrick Marleau was moved to center, Tyler Bozak found himself on the fourth line and a few depth players are coming out of the lineup. (pensionplanpuppets.com)

–TSN’s Travis Yost looks at established players that have seen the ice time drop over the last few seasons. There’s some interesting names on the list. Are these players starting to decline? (TSN.ca)

–NBCSN’s coverage of the hockey season continues on Wednesday night, as the Flyers battle the Blackhawks. NHL.com look at five reasons you shouldn’t miss this game. The fact that Patrick Kane and Ivan Provorov are in this game certainly doesn’t hurt. (NHL.com)

–In yesterday’s morning skate, we had a list of the top 15 scariest masks of all-time. Today, the Sporting News tells the tales of some of the most frightening masks the ice has ever seen. (Sporting News)

–Here’s a really touching story about the impact Capitals forward T.J. Oshie has had on a young cancer patient named Addy Flint. “Her getting to see T.J. and watch the Caps practice is really inspirational for her,” Addy’s mom, Stacey said. “She mentioned how it kind of allows her to look forward to something. She’s been determined to be healthy today as well as it kind of gives her something fun to remember when there are kind of the rough times.” (Washington Post)

–The Tampa Bay Lightning have several quality defensemen on their roster. Because Mikhail Sergachev is sticking around, there’s one less spot for Slater Koekkoek and Andrej Sustr. Despite their depth on the blue line, now isn’t the time to get rid of those two guys, according to rawcharge.com.

–You’ve probably heard a thing or two about Vegas’ depth between the pipes being tested. With Marc-Andre Fleury, Malcolm Subban and Oscar Dansk on the shelf, The Score looks at five goalies that could help the Golden Knights right now. Guys like Andrew Hammond and Michael Hutchinson could probably be had for a relatively low cost. (The Score)

–The Arizona Coyotes haven’t had much to celebrate this season, but rookie Clayton Keller has been one of the positives on the team. The youngster has been able to create offense on a bad team, which doesn’t surprise people in the organization. “A real creative mind, a creative person, a lot of structure and detail with his life,” Coyotes GM John Chayka said of Keller. “Good personality, easy to get along with, easy to talk to, but also very intense and passionate and driven about anything hockey related. He’s a hockey genius, no doubt about it.” (Sports Illustrated)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Lightning look to use Dan Girardi as a top-pairing D. In 2017.

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After years of debate, it seemed like most of the hockey world agreed recently that Dan Girardi might be a little … overmatched as an NHL defenseman. Even his biggest proponents would probably acknowledge that years of wear-and-tear have left him limited.

Even so, the generally shrewd Tampa Bay Lightning handed Girardi a polarizing two-year, $6 million contract. There might have been talk of Girardi scoring well based on their own internal metrics. It was weird.

MORE: After being bought out by the Rangers, Girardi wants to show he can still ‘play and contribute.’

The bottom line is that at least someone in the organization disagrees with the consensus against Girardi. And that voice – or those voices – proved loud enough to allocate precious cap space to him.

To really hammer home that belief, consider this: it looks like he’ll line up with popular PHT Norris pick Victor Hedman on the top pairing tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Now, it’s true that there are some extenuating circumstances. The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith notes that Jake Dotchin, Hedman’s most common preseason partner, looks to be a surprise scratch for the Bolts. It seems like Dotchin is still in Jon Cooper’s dog house for some murky “team rules violation.”

Perhaps it’s a balm for Bolts fans that Cooper told Smith that combos might be temporary?

“You look all around the league, I don’t know if there’s a d-core that has stayed completely intact,” Cooper said. “Maybe Nashville, but (Ryan) Ellis is hurt. Different guys have got to play and get a different feel for each other. It’s Game 1, there’s 82 in a season. You hope chemistry comes because we don’t know if this is going to stay together the whole time. But you’ve got a good veteran guuy that can protect the net and you’ve got a horse that leads the charge out there. For tonight, that’s how it’s going to go.”

Still, the Lightning clearly hold Girardi in higher regard than … just about any objective measure.

You might not see a more dramatic disparity between two HERO charts than Hedman vs. Girardi. Confession: I didn’t know that a player could score poorly enough on shot suppression to not even show up on the chart.

via Dom Galamini

OK, again, Hedman will make most defensemen look bad. And maybe there’s some thought that he can carry Girardi around; the other pairings appear to be Anton StralmanMikhail Sergachev and a less inspiring third duo of Andrej Sustr and Braydon Coburn, with Slater Koekkoek joining Dotchin in street clothes.

What about Girardi against, say, Dom Galamini’s standards for a bottom-pairing duo?

via Dom Galamini

Yeah, also not great.

Again, the Lightning’s lineup will probably look more sensible once Dotchin leaves timeout.

Still, as much as injuries and bad luck plagued the Lightning, it’s a little troubling to see certain patterns from Cooper & Co.

Sergachev could very well end up filling a serious need for the Bolts. Still, while Jonathan Drouin seemingly always struggled to gain Cooper’s approval, an extremely limited player like Sustr keeps getting chances, often taking away opportunities for defensemen with better potential. If Girardi serves a similar role, Lightning fans could grow increasingly frustrated, particularly if this places excessive pressure on Andrei Vasilevskiy to save the day.

It’s not the end of the world that Girardi is starting with Hedman, especially if it’s a short-term thing.

For a team that’s often seen as brilliant, decisions like these do make people scratch their heads, however.

Will Rangers fans warm up to Vigneault this season?

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This post is part of Rangers Day on PHT…

From the way many New York Rangers fans discuss Alain Vigneault, you’d think he was presiding over the era of 1997-98 to 2003-04, when the Rangers missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons.

Impressive results

From a sheer win-loss standpoint, Vigneault’s been a success, even if the Rangers haven’t been able to win it all. The Rangers’ points percentage has been at .628, almost as strong as his .632 mark with the Canucks, when AV took Vancouver within one win of that elusive Stanley Cup title.

(Breaking: things haven’t gone so smoothly for Vancouver since he left town.)

The Rangers are 192-108-28 under Vigneault. They made an unexpected run to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and also brought them to the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.

Plenty of critics

Of course, Vigneault wasn’t on the ice winning those games, and many would (understandably) attribute the Rangers’ successes to the players, most notably Henrik Lundqvist. In the eyes of many, this team’s successes come despite Vigneault.

Again, the criticisms are often as harsh as they are widespread.

Sometimes people find his defensive pairing decisions maddening. If you want to make some Rangers fans wince, just utter the name Tanner Glass. SBNation Rangers blog Blueshirt Banter provides a portal into such angst, with headlines like “Rangers demise started at the top” and failing grades for his playoff maneuvering.

Twitter can honestly get a little weird with the AV vitriol, although … maybe that’s to be expected? Consider this a random example that’s on the more, well, SFW spectrum:

Not everyone is bashing Vigneault, mind you, but his critics can sometimes resemble a chorus.

Glass floor

Of course, any passionate fan base will have its qualms with coaches. People have been discussing “the pros and cons of Alain Vigneault” for ages.

It’s easy to get caught up in your favorite team and ignore the notion that virtually every coach has “their guys.”

In this case, “their guys” means marginal players whose elevated roles leaves fans shaking their heads. Jon Cooper seemingly favored Andrej Sustr and arguably never really trusted Jonathan Drouin. Maple Leafs fans weren’t always thrilled to see, say, Roman Polak getting serious minutes. The list goes on and on.

A turning point?

With that in mind, the 2017-18 season could be an especially fascinating chapter in the love-hate affair between Rangers fans and Vigneault.

Frankly, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton took measures to protect Vigneault from himself, and those changes might just leave fans begrudgingly agreeing with more AV moves than usual … or it might send some over the edge if old habits die hard.

As much as people criticize individual moves, Vigneault made a strong argument that he’s a versatile coach in 2016-17, taking a more modern approach with the Rangers. It mostly worked, and now this team has better tools to improve their transition game.

To an extent, it’s addition by subtraction, as Dan Girardi‘s time mercifully ends, and with it the motivation for AV to give him big minutes. This opens the door for more mobile defenders to get time, such as promising young blueliner Brady Skjei.

The actual additions are most important. Kevin Shattenkirk stands, on paper, as a massive upgrade, especially if he slides into a pairing with Ryan McDonagh (who some believe has been dragged down by Girardi for years).

Another key will be how Marc Staal is used. If the emphasis shifts from Staal to Shattenkirk, McDonagh, Skjei, Brendan Smith and maybe even Anthony DeAngelo, stats-minded Rangers fans might be pleased.

Maybe most importantly for the mental health of some fans, that lure to put Glass in the lineup is also gone.

***

To some extent, criticisms are just the nature of the beast for coaches in professional sports. Vigneault’s been around long enough to realize that.

Even so, the highs and lows of Vigneault can sometimes be quite dramatic, making him a polarizing subject for fans. This season should be especially interesting to watch from the perspective of Rangers fans, whether AV makes changes or continues to frustrate them in familiar ways.