It's a curious word, really, one of the English language's all-purpose building blocks.
We speak of course of 'but,' which can be used as a preposition, an adverb, a noun and, mostly, as a conjunction. As in, I don't mean to be disrespectful, but… It can be deployed in all sorts of circumstances, like, for example, the one Bruce Boudreau found himself in as his Washington Capitals took their pre-game skate at the Bell Centre.
Concerned fans are staging a demonstration against head shots and violent play before Tuesday night's game in protest of the Zdeno Chara hit that put Max Pacioretty in the hospital with a fractured neck vertebrae and a concussion on Mar. 8.
"Yeah, all right!" Boudreau snorted when asked about it. "Don't come. If you don't like it, don't come to the games! Players realize they could get hurt, they don't want to do it, but unless you've played and seen what goes on at the speed of the game, you're not going to be able to argue with it.
"And listen, I don't want to get into any controversy, but if that was Hal Gill that hit David Krejci I don't think there would be a protest tonight."
Now that's a 'but' for the ages.
It's reminiscent of Boudreau's sortie before a recent tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he lambasted Tampa star Steve Stamkos for diving, the plain truth is that controversy has served the Washington coach well (the Caps won that game in overtime).
Not that Boudreau especially needs to resort to gamesmanship - the Capitals are 8-0-1 in their last nine games and could take over the conference lead with a Philadelphia loss and a Washington win tonight against Montreal, which has won six of seven and is in fine form also.
Tuesday's is the first meeting in Montreal between the Caps and Habs since last spring's fateful playoff series, where the Habs upset the heavily favoured conference champions.
The teams have split the season series, although the Caps have a points advantage having lost in the shootout.
Montreal winger Michael Cammalleri, who played for Boudreau in the minors, will be in uniform despite missing practice on Monday with an illness.
Habs defenceman Brent Sopel, who is unbeaten in red-white-and-blue since coming over before the trading deadline, will miss out.
Washington will also be missing its deadline talisman: Centre Jason Arnott, who has yet to taste defeat since moving over from the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 28, is on the shelf with an undisclosed injury that will keep him out "week to week."
Arnott has five points in seven games as a Cap, his contribution will be missed.
Rookie goaltender Braden Holtby gets the start for Washington - it's the 21-year-old Marshall, Sask., native's first trip to the Bell Centre - and Carey Price starts for the Habs.