Bruins

Belichick excited to get back on the field after long wait

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Belichick excited to get back on the field after long wait

FOXBORO -- It's been 12 days since the Patriots last played a game, and the buildup to Sunday's meeting with the Bills has seemed almost interminable for coach Bill Belichick.

"Seems like a month since we've played," he said. "I think everybody's excited to get back out there and get going. We have a lot of challenges here with Buffalo in all three phases of the game as a team. Hopefully we're ready to meet those, get back out on the field and start playing again. Had a lot of practice time, a lot of film time, a lot of meeting time. Like I said I think we're excited, ready to get back out there and go. It can't get here soon enough."

Belichick said that with the extra practice time -- the Patriots have held four practices this week as opposed to the typical three leading up to a game -- the team may be a little ahead of schedule, but there is still plenty of work to do.

"The Bills give you a lot to get ready for," he said. "So we could probably take a month to get ready for Buffalo and still be working on something."

The bye week has given the Patriots more time to prepare, but they're trying to finish the week as normally as possible. Belichick explained that the team plans its weeks so that leading into a game -- no matter when it is: Sunday, Monday night, Thursday night -- players can feel as though they are going through their normal routine.

"I think those days leading up the game are pretty consistent," Belichick said. "Those days at the end are kind of the same, pretty much the same, so the player can get into that same routine so he can be at that same point weekly.

"It's not one week at all peaks, the next week you're kind of on the down slope, and the next week it peaks. You try to have it, you know, hit that crest every game . . . Personally is each guy in the same exact emotional state every week. I don't know. But the idea is to get to the highest point possible at that time and it's by sequencing the final days to try to facilitate that."

Though the structure of teams' practices have changed with the new collective bargaining agreement, Belichick said that the normal three-day practice schedule has been the same ever since he came into the NFL as an assistant with the Baltimore Colts in 1975. That explains why this four-day practice week is a little bit odd, even for him, and why he's itching to get back on the field for a game.

"It's been pretty much the same since I've come into the league," Belichick said of the three-day practice schedule. "Which was probably pretty much the same with Paul Brown, who changed the -- most everything Paul Brown did, I'd say, is what most professional teams do now. Sixty something, however many years later, however many years it's been."

Talking Points: Signs point to Pastrnak busting out of mini-slump

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Talking Points: Signs point to Pastrnak busting out of mini-slump

GOLD STAR: David Pastrnak netted the game-winner in the third period after getting freed up for a breakaway chance, and then throwing a double-move at Matt Murray before tucking one under his glove hand. It was the first goal in six games for Pastrnak, and it capped off a day when he topped 22 minutes of ice time, had a team-high five shots on net and battled through some physical play from the Penguins to get toward his offense. The 21-year-old continues to set the pace for the Bruins offensively, and has shown all the signs in the last couple of games that he’s busting out of whatever mini-slump was holding him down. Everybody knows that Pasta isn’t good for Thanksgiving, but it is certainly good for Black Friday.

BLACK EYE: A tough afternoon for former Boston College standout Brian Dumoulin, who got rocked by a couple of heavy Noel Acciari hits later in the game, finishing with a minus-2 rating while sitting on the ice for a couple of goals against. Dumoulin finished with three giveaways in 20:03 of ice time, managed only a single shot on net and was one of the weaker links on the ice for Pittsburgh in a game where they didn’t play too badly in the final 40 minutes. Dumoulin seems to struggle a bit when he comes back to Boston, and Black Friday afternoon was no exception.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were outplayed in the second period despite outshooting the Penguins by a 14-8 margin, and they watched as Pittsburgh pressed them for three goals in the middle 20 minutes. But in what turned out to be a very important play in the game, Matt Grzelcyk finished off a broken play in front of the net to score his first NHL goal on the Garden ice where he grew up skating. That goal allowed the Bruins to move into the second intermission with a tied hockey game, and set things up for the third period heroics where David Pastrnak scored the game-winner on a breakaway strike.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk put together another strong performance, and his line played a giant role in the Bruins jumping out to a 2-0 lead after the first period. He set up the David Krejci goal that got the Bruins up and rolling in the first period, and then he also fed Krejci again in the second period on a shot attempt he fanned on in the slot. The puck drifted over to Matt Grzelcyk for Boston’s third goal, and it capped off a day where the rookie winger topped 18 minutes of ice time, had two assists and a plus-1 rating, finished with four shots on net and had a couple of hits in there for good measure.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 – the placement the Bruins now have in the Atlantic Division after winning four games in a row, which puts them back into a playoff spot on the day after Thanksgiving. What a stunning turnaround it’s been over the last couple of weeks.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “it’s exciting. You’re on NBC, you’re playing against the Stanley Cup Champions, everyone is watching, let’s put our best foot forward. I know it’s one of 82, but it’s a bigger one of 82 the way I look at it, and I think they felt the same way coming out [in the first period].” –Bruce Cassidy, on the strong start from the Black and Gold. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Morris returns to Celtics starting lineup vs. Magic

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Morris returns to Celtics starting lineup vs. Magic

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics will turn to a familiar starting lineup as they try to get back on their winning ways following Wednesday’s loss at Miami.
 
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Marcus Morris will be in the starting lineup tonight against Orlando, joining the usual Celtics foursome of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford.

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Morris’ availability tonight was not a given, similar to it being in question prior to Wednesday’s game against the Heat.
 
Morris has been dealing with soreness in his left knee which kept him out for the first eight games of the season and has limited his playing time since then.
 
Stevens said Morris will likely not play against Indiana on Saturday but no final decision has been made. Since returning to the lineup, the Celtics have played Morris with a minutes restriction in addition to not allowing him to play in any back-to-back games.

Morris has made it clear that he does not like having his playing time limited while not playing in any back-to-backs, but has repeatedly he understands why it is being done and won’t fight what the coaching and medical staff believe is best for him and the team.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE