In today’s collection of notable NHL morning headlines: Ryan Miller suffers concussion, Milan Lucic to face NHL disciplinarian today…Ilya Kovalchuk still plagued by nagging injury…Blackhawks lose Brent Seabrook to injury…Ilya Brzgalov bouncing back…Islanders coach unhappy with team’s performance…Blue showing improvement already under new head coach Ken Hitchcock…Rangers won’t allow Mats Zuccarello to return to Europe.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller is sidelined indefinitely by a concussion, the result of a collision with Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic, who deliberately ran Miller when he left his crease to play a loose puck. Sabres GM Darcy Regier is furious over the incident, and is calling on the league to discipline Lucic, who has a meeting today with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. Regier and head coach Lindy Ruff reportedly also weren’t pleased with the meek reaction by Miller’s teammates on the ice at the time of the incident, as they “heard about it in strong terms” during a team meeting Sunday in Montreal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Though Miller put himself in a vulnerable position by leaving his crease to play the puck, Lucic took advantage of the situation by deliberately running over the Sabres goalie, even though he had plenty of time to avoid a collision, and showed no remorse for his actions. He was assessed a minor penalty during the game for charging (as per the NHL rulebook), but he could be facing stiffer punishment from the league, especially given Miller’s injury. Lucic was previously suspended for one game back in April 2009, for crosschecking then-Montreal Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre in the head during a playoff game, and received a game misconduct in last spring’s playoff serieS against the Habs for boarding Montreal defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, which could work against him in today’s hearing.
NEW YORK POST: New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk remains plagued by a “lower body injury” – believed to be a groin injury – which has sidelined him since November 3, when he was hurt playing against the Philadelphia Flyers.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook is out day-to-day with a lower body injury, suffered when he slid skates-first into the end boards during Sunday’s 6-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks struggled without Duncan Keith when he was sidelined, so it’ll be interesting to see how they perform if Seabrook is out for any length of time.
PHILLY.COM: In the three weeks since struggling through a 9-8 debacle loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has rounded back into form in recent games, going 4-0-1 with a .939 save percentage during that period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers management and coaching staff appeared shocked by Bryzgalov’s comments following that 9-8 loss, even going to the point of trying to restrict media access to him. I think they’re learning that Bryzgalov’s refreshing candor in no way was going to adversely affect his future performance. He’s not a guy with a fragile ego, just one who speaks honestly.
NEWSDAY: NY Islanders head coach Jack Capuano isn’t pleased with his struggling team’s recent performance, calling out some of his regulars (though not by name) who “talk a good game to the media”, but fail to play up to their words on the ice.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After showing so much potential in the second half of last season, the Isles are in danger of falling into another season-killing free fall. Put simply: this team is better than their record, but they’re not putting it together consistently for a full game. They’d better do something soon, or join the Columbus Blue Jackets at the bottom of the standings, with their playoff hopes all but dashed before December.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues have shown significant improvement in their first three games under new head coach Ken Hitchcock, going 2-0-1 by improving their puck possession and transition game.
NEW YORK POST: There is no “out clause” which would allow Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello to return to Europe if he plays a certain number of games in the AHL. Zuccarello is currently toiling with the Rangers farm team in Hartford.