Patriots

Bruins focused on the here-and-now for playoffs

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Bruins focused on the here-and-now for playoffs

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The Bruins know it how it feels. They realize what it takes.

As the defending Stanley Cup champs, the memory of hoisting hockey's most prized possession is ever so vivid. But the memory of how they got to that point of ultimate success also remains clear.

While preparing for Thursday night's playoff opener against the seventh-seeded Washington Capitals at the TD Garden, Bruins players echoed a similar reason for last year's success:

Don't live in the past, and don't look to the future.

"I think what we've learned the most is, we never looked too far ahead of what we had to do," said Bruins forward Milan Lucic after Wednesday's practice at Ristuccia Arena. "And that's our mindset right now. All our focus is focused on Game 1 and Game 1 only, and coming out hard, and making the most of our home-ice advantage."

It would have been easy for last year's Bruins to curl up into a ball and succumb to the pressures of falling behind 2-0 in both their first round series against the Montreal Canadiens, and again in the Stanley Cup Finals series to the Vancouver Canucks.

The B's lost the first two games of both rounds, but ended up winning both in seven games. And being able to put those early losses behind them was the main key to their success.

"It's huge, especially right now," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. "If you lose a game or two, you can't dwell on it. You have to continue to worry about the next game, and what you have to do to win that one.

"You saw we did it a couple times last year against Montreal and Vancouver," added Marchand. "We got down by a couple games, and we didn't panic. We let it go. We built on the things that we were doing well. And it got us back in both series'. That's what you have to do. You have to let a loss go, let a bad game go, and worry about being better in the next one."

Bruins coach Claude Julien believes his team is ready to carry that same mentality into this year's playoff run.

"That's not going to change," said Julien. "We've done that in the past, and we're going to continue to do that. We're a team that lives in the present, and not in the future. We don't live in the past, and last year's last year."

Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven

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Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven

Cassius Marsh was brought to New England to help a depleted defensive end group and play in the kicking game. The Patriots wanted him badly enough that they parted with two draft picks -- a fifth and a seventh -- to acquire him in a trade with the Seahawks just before the start of the season. 

Less than three months later, they've decided to part ways with the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder. 

Marsh played in nine games for the Patriots this season, providing the team with an edge defender and someone with special-teams experience. He blocked a kick in Week 7 against the Falcons that earned him an enthusiastic attaboy from coach Bill Belichick. 

Coming off the edge, Marsh recorded one sack and 13 hurries. Against the run, he was used more sparingly, and he was one of the Patriots on the scene for Marshawn Lynch's 25-yard run in the second quarter on Sunday. He played in just two snaps in Mexico City after missing the previous week's game in Denver due to a shoulder injury. 

Without Marsh the Patriots remain thin at defensive end. In order to help bolster that spot, the corresponding move the Patriots made to fill the open spot on their 53-man roster was to sign defensive lineman Eric Lee off of the Bills practice squad. 

Lee entered the league with the Texans last season as an undrafted rookie out of South Florida. Listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Lee has bounced on and off of the Bills practice squad this season since being released by the Texans before this season.

The Patriots got a good look at Lee during joint practices last summer with the Texans at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. In the preseason game with the Texans that week, Lee played 40 snaps and according to Pro Football Focus he had two quarterback hurries. The Patriots have a history of snagging players they've practiced against, and with Lee, that trend continues

Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

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Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

BRIGHTON -- Coming off a pair of back-to-back wins from backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are still undecided about what they’re going to do between the pipes Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils.

On the one hand, the Bruins are very tempted to ride the hot goaltending hand with Khudobin a strong 5-0-2 record on the season and a .935 save percentage that currently leads all goaltenders across the league. There’s a school of thought that the B’s should simply keep plugging Khudobin into the lineup until he actually loses a game, and begins to cool down a little bit between the pipes after stopping 63-of-65 shots against LA and San Jose.

At the same time it will be over a week since Tuukka Rask has played in a game if the Bruins go with Khudobin on Wednesday night against the Devils, and Bruce Cassidy was clear to stress that Rask is still their No. 1 guy. So that’s the dilemma the Bruins are facing with Cassidy calling it “a good problem to have” based on Khudobin’s strong play from the backup spot.

That is a far cry from what the Bruins experienced a year ago with the same goalie, and a reason for optimism that their goaltending situation will be better off throughout a long season.

“Do you go with the hot hand and leave your No. 1 sitting where he’s beginning to wonder what the hell is going on? That’s the decision,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We need to keep them both in a good place, and not lose out on [Khudobin’s] good run while keeping Tuukka focused and confident in his game. That’s what we’re battling and I talk to Goalie Bob [Essensa] about it every day. We’ll make our decision [on Wednesday] and we hope it’s the right one.

“It’s a long year so no matter who we use there are a lot of starts. I don’t think Khudobin is going to go ice cold if he use Tuukka tomorrow, and I don’t think Tuukka is going to blow a gasket if we go with the hot hand. For me I don’t think it’s that big of a decision.”

Perhaps Rask blowing a gasket wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world given the way he’s played this season.

The one underlying concern for Rask beyond the .897 save percentage this season is that his game has really been in a different place for the last three seasons. While his .922 career save percentage mark is among the best in the NHL, he has been below that mark in each of the last three seasons while struggling to maintain consistently behind a changing roster that’s turning over to youth and inexperience.

It certainly seems like the Bruins feel it’s premature to label Rask as anything but their No. 1 goaltender, but the pause they’re giving on Wednesday night’s starter speaks volumes about their current confidence level in each of their puck-stoppers.

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