Bruins

Wakeup Call: If Bill Belichick were a jerk, he'd be John Tortorella

769660.jpg

Wakeup Call: If Bill Belichick were a jerk, he'd be John Tortorella

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Monday, February 18:

AUTO RACING
Of all the congratulations Danica Patrick received for becoming the first woman to win the pole at the Daytona 500, the one that may mean the most to her came from Janet Guthrie, who broke NASCAR's gender barrier in 1976. (AP)

A look at Patrick down through the years. (nbcsports.com)

BASEBALL
Despite an "absolutely terrible" offseason spent recovering from a broken ankle that he says he probably could have avoided had he not tried to play through pain, Derek Jeter vows to be ready for Opening Day. (AP)

Just be ready for April 24, Derek. You don't want to miss "Joe Maddon Gnome Bobblehead Night" at The Trop. (NBC's Off The Bench)

Whenever you do come back, Jose Reyes will be waiting. (CSN Baltimore)

Todd Helton apologizes and asks for forgiveness after his DUI arrest. (AP)

Paul Konerko realizes this may be his last go-round in the big leagues, but says he's ready for life after baseball. (AP)

Freddy Sanchez? At the end of the line? Wasn't it just yesterday he was the big Sox prospect in Pawtucket? (CSN Bay Area)

If you had Day One in the Matt Garza Injury Pool, congratulations! (CSN Chicago)

Yes, yes, that's Chipper Jones in Braves camp. No, no, he's not coming back. (AP)

Nick Swisher returns to the Indians after attending his mother's funeral. (AP)

Roger Clemens says he's "been friends" with, and "had some good times" with, Mike Piazza. With friends like that . . . (AP)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
The legend of Marshall Henderson continues to grow. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

A win is a win is a win, right, Jim Larranaga? Especially one that gets you to 12-0 in the ACC. (AP)

Don't be surprised if No. 20 Wisconsin and No. 13 Ohio State flop positions in the new AP poll today after the Badgers' 22-point thumping of the Buckeyes. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Ken Clark, one of the Nebraska's top all-time rushers, dies of a heart attack at age 46. (AP)

GOLF
Tiger Woods tunes up for this week's Match Play Championship by playing a round with President Obama. (AP)

When gets there, he'll be seeded second behind Rory McIlroy. (AP)

This weekend's winners: John Merrick at Riviera . . . (AP)

. . . Jiyai Shin in the Australian Women's Open . . . (AP)

. . . and Bernard Langer on the Champions Tour. (AP)

HOCKEY
You think Bill Belichick is bad? Try asking John Tortorella a question. (CSN Washington)

The Blackhawks beat the Kings and are now one away from tying the 2006-07 Ducks' record for consecutive games at the beginning of a season without a loss. (CSN Chicago)

The Blues follow a winless home stand with an undefeated road trip. (AP)

The Wild top the Red Wings for their first regulation victory since Jan. 29. (AP)

The Canadiens' rookie sensation, Brendan Gallagher, is out indefinitely because of a concussion. (AP)

The AHL game between Springfield and Adirondack is suspended in the second period when the Falcons' Wade MacLeod, a Columbus farmhand and ex-Northeastern player, suffers a seizure after being checked into the glass. MacLeod is reported to be stable and alert at a Springfield hospital. (AP)

PRO BASKETBALL
At long last, a Clipper is named MVP of the All-Star Game. (AP)

The injured James Harden not only gets to play in his hometown All-Star Game, but he scores 15 points and has some fun, to boot. (CSN Houston)

Kobe to LeBron: Get that stuff outta here. Twice! (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

The NBA All-Stars play Marilyn Monroe to Michael Jordan's President Kennedy. (AP)

Jerry Colangelo on Deron Williams: I meant physically unfit, for God's sake! (AP)

PRO FOOTBALL
A team-by-team look at the candidates for the dreaded franchise tag. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

Alec Ogletree's recent DUI arrest, coming less than a year after his positive drug test, may be a boon for the Ravens. (Pro Football Talk)

TENNIS
Rafael Nadal's comeback is complete: He wins the Brazil Open. (AP)

Victoria Azarenka ends her 10-match losing streak against Serena Williams as she posts a 7-6, 2-6, 6-3 victory in the finals of the Qatar Open. (AP)

Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

column_bruins_peter_cehlarik_kenny_agostino_101817.jpg

Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

BRIGHTON, Mass – It would appear that Bruce Cassidy is ready to start shuffling the deck up front after a slow start to the season.

With the Bruins ranking among the league’s worst both offensively and defensively just a handful of games into the season, they are both introducing a few new forwards to the mix while hoping for full health to a couple of other ones. 

First off, the Bruins appear that they might get David Backes back for Thursday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after his bout with diverticulitis, supplying some badly needed size, strength and net-front tenacity on the wing. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) might not be too far behind after going through a full practice wearing a no-contact jersey. The return of No. 37 would help in any number of different areas once he’s good to go, and would have a cascade effect on the rest of the forwards.  

MORE:

Getting both players back in short order would give the Bruins a toughness around the net that was certainly missing against Malcolm Subban and the Golden Knights, and hasn’t been there consistently this season with No. 37 and No. 42 out of commission.

“[Bergeron] is progressing. In the past we’ve ruled him out ahead of time, but we’re not ruling him out for [Thursday vs. the Canucks]. Backes looks closer to being ready to play,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Some of the games that have gotten away from us, those guys are glue guys that really add that element to us to keep us on the rails without the game getting away. Some nights you just need their offense or some hard defending, and you miss their leadership obviously. They’re all good players, but most of them you know they’re bringing that North/South game and a few good shifts here or there could have got us back on track.

“[Bergeron] is underrated in his ability to get to the front of the net especially with Marchand and Pastrnak on his wings. So we miss that part of it: Getting there on time, making plays and finishing off plays. Backes is just a big body there and you certainly miss that part of it. With Vegas the other night that was one of the biggest things we were missing was getting second chances, shooting for second chances, hitting the net and getting those rebound chances against a team that was harder to get inside on.

A few moves on Wednesday might also suggest some on-the-fly changes with some forwards that haven’t been working out with the Black and Gold. Ryan Spooner suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday night against Vegas, and it sounds like it might not be a short-term injury for the center with just one point in his first five games. Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano also haven’t produced much in the first couple of weeks of the season, and could be in danger of losing roster spots to Providence call-ups Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik.  

Both players were late cuts from training camp and were showing the blend of size, strength, skill, experience and production that Boston needs more of as they search for answers among their forward group. Beleskey, Spooner and Vatrano have combined for one point, a minus-6 rating and just 12 shots on net in a combined 14 games this season, so clearly that is one of the first spots to look for upgrading the roster from within.

“[A tryout period] is a good way to put it. We talked about that in training camp when we had a long look at guys, but not Cehlarik because he didn’t get a chance to play [because of shoulder surgery]. He obviously piqued our interest last year and did a lot of good things for us,” said Cassidy, who has been in a state of constant flux putting forward lines together due to injury and ineffectiveness. “We just went in a different direction at the trade deadline, but we brought him up to give him a look. We have a decision tomorrow and I’m not going to say whether [Cehlarik] is in or out.

“He’s really played well in Providence, and we just thought he might be able to help us. Some of it may depend on the health of the other guys as far as who’s in and who’s out. If both Cehlarik and Agostino are both in the lineup there’s a chance [they might play together]. They were with [Riley] Nash today in the middle, and he has some of the same qualities as JFK down in Providence. But until we sort through who’s in for tomorrow, and that starts at the top with Bergeron and Backes, then stuff will fall into place for all of them.”

Depending on how Don Sweeney plays with his 23-roster spots, perhaps the time has come to put one of those players on waivers for a trip to the AHL. Simply based on merit it would be Vatrano and the total nothingness he’s shown in his first four games this season, but there would also be a legitimate concern they’d lose the 23-year-old Massachusetts native on waivers for nothing.

For their part, players like Agostino and Cehlarik ripped up the AHL while teamed with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in Providence, and were just looking for their chance to carve out a role in Boston. Now they may get their chance based on others not really grasping their opportunity, and they’re ready if that’s the case.

“It’s encouraging for me, but I’m just taking things day-by-day. I’m not looking past anything and I’m looking in the past. I just take things as they come here,” said Agostino, who leads the Bruins two goals and seven points in three games thus far. “This isn’t my first time [up at the NHL], so I’m just going to do whatever I can to make the best impression possible.”

What if Agostino and Cehlarik, a career AHL player and a former third-round pick, can’t make the impact that the Bruins are looking for?

Hopefully by then the Bruins will at least have their top two lines healthy and firing on all cylinders, and can continue to mix and match things in the bottom six until they find a combination of forwards that work. But it may come to a point where the Bruins need to look outside the organization for an impact forward or two, or at least find somebody that can make an impact on the ice rather than will themselves invisible.

Only Beleskey has been at all effective this season as he’s dropped the gloves and played physical at times, and certainly can still be an effective third or fourth liner with the right players skating alongside him. For those reasons along with the massive contract money still owed him, Beleskey should be given every opportunity to succeed in Boston. But one thing is clear at this point: There is too much dead weight on the Bruins roster right now at the forward position, and something needs to be done about it if they hope to pull themselves out of their early-season funk.   

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bruins lose Ryan Spooner for 4-6 weeks with a groin tear

bruins_ryan_spooner_120216.jpg

Bruins lose Ryan Spooner for 4-6 weeks with a groin tear

The Bruins have absorbed another substantial injury to their forward group with the news that Ryan Spooner will be out 4-6 weeks with a torn groin. According to sources, it was something he was playing with for some time before the right adductor muscle in his groin finally tore in Sunday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

With Spooner out of the Bruins lineup, there will be challenges to both team speed and to a power play unit that the fast-skating center was a key contributor over the last couple of seasons. Sean Kuraly was centering Tim Schaller and David Backes in Spooner’s absence during Wednesday practice, but it remains to be seen how they’ll go about filling the void for the next couple of months.

MORE:

“We’re no different than anybody else. We’d like to have our full complement [of players],” said Bruce Cassidy, when addressing the injury situation. “To be healthy and 100 percent in this league is tough, but we’d love to be there.”

Spooner was very clearly slowed by something at the start of the season with just one point and four shots on net in his first five games of the season along with a minus-2 rating, and that’s a tough development for a player like Spooner that relies on his speed and skating for much of his effectiveness at the NHL level. It will be interesting to see if Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson eventually gets a look given his fast start at the AHL Level, and the fact that Spooner is on a one-year deal that may see him playing somewhere other than Boston next season, or perhaps even following this spring’s trade deadline. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE