Patriots

Haggerty: Bruins vs. Capitals preview

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Haggerty: Bruins vs. Capitals preview

The Bruins have started to find their consistency and mojo in their last three games, and they dont want to throw it away now.

Once again the Bruins will be facing a Washington Capitals bunch that should hungrier than them given the Southeast Division dog fight theyre embroiled in while holding tightly onto the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Caps managed only five out of a possible 10 points in their recent five-game homestand and now the Bruins represent the first stop on a long and winding road that will likely determine their playoff fate once and for all.

The Bruins meanwhile have won two games in a row for the first time in nearly two months, are playing the kind of hockey thats befitting a Stanley Cup champ and looked primed to go on an extended winning stretch before the playoffs begin. As it is so often for the Bruins its about balanced scoring with production from the fourth line, physicality and the goaltending component finally showing up against the Sabres.

The Bruins werent worried about winning streaks or consecutive victories as much as theyre now laser pointer focused on finding consistency in their game and feeling good about themselves with the playoffs around the corner. Jordan Caron has given the Bruins six points in his last three games and has whipped up the kind of production thats crucial at the right wing spot with injuries to Rich Peverley and Nathan Horton.

I dont think we can focus on going for three wins in a row or going for four wins in a row, said Kelly. I think we just need to realize that we need to be more consistent and we need to come out and play every game hard. If we do that the results will take care of themselves.

With 11 games during the first 19 days of March and a bevy of four-game weeks for the Bruins, Claude Julien gave the Bs an optional skate on Friday that big minute players like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Dennis Seidenberg decided to spend off the ice. That sounds like a deal the Bruins might see more of going forward provided their coach is seeing the results on the ice.

A homeroad weekend against the Capitals and Penguins isnt any easy task for the Bruins, but the hard way is the best way to prepare for the playoffs.

I just want to make sure that I see a good effort from everybody, so whatever each individual needs to do to get there is their option, said Julien. Were looking forward to keeping our momentum going. You want to win hockey games, but what you want most of all is your team to compete hard every nightand want to be one of the best teams.

Weve been pretty good at that lately. I like the direction were headed in. I like the approach of our guys before the games. You can see them getting into the groove of understanding just how important every game is. Ottawa just wont go away. We need to keep playing good hockey.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Brian Rolston has one assist in six games with the Bruins, and has only managed nine shots on goal in those six games. Part of the reason to bring Rolston in was his willingness and skill shooting the puck, but that hasnt been seen enough thus far. Rolston was dropped down to the third line midway through Thursday nights win over the Buffalo Sabres and has experienced some turbulence adjusting to 15 minutes per night with the Bruins after getting spot duty for the Islanders prior to the trade. If anything could use a solid, productive game against the Capitals it would be Rolston now skating with Benoit Pouliot and Chris Kelly.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Both the Capitals and Penguins are playing well. Maybe theyre in different spots in the standings, but everyone wants those points going down to the stretch. Its going to be two hard-fought games. Its nice to get back-to-back wins, but we cant sit here saying we need to go for three in a row we need to go for four in a row. We just need to be more consistent. Chris Kelly talking about the challenge of matinees against Washington (at home) and Pittsburgh (on the road) this weekend.

KEY MATCHUP: Its always Zdeno Chara against Alex Ovechkin in a battle of Slovakian immovable object against Russian unstoppable force. Chara held the 26-year-old Ovechkin to zero points and a minus-2 in their only meeting of the season thus far as the Russian sniper was on suspension during Bostons first game in Washington DC. It should be a highly motivated Ovechkin given the questions that are being whispered about him while hes on pace for a pedestrian 30-goal, 60-point campaign for a Washington team on the outside of the playoff bubble.

STAT TO WATCH: 14-0-0 The Bruins record this season when Chris Kelly scores a goal. Claude Julien likes to talk about the importance of secondary scoring and that stat reflects it nicely.

INJURIES: Rich Peverley (right knee sprain), Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are long term injuries for the Bruins, and both Andrew Ference (lower body injury) and Daniel Paille (upper body) are day-to-day with the possibility of taking part in Saturday mornings warm-up skate. Brad Marchand suffered a stinger in his shoulder in the third period of Thursday nights game, but Claude Julien said hell be playing. For Washington playmaking center Nicklas Backstrom remains out with a concussion and defenseman Mike Green will be serving the first game of a three-game suspension for a head shot on Tampas Brett Connelly.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Itll be interesting to see whether Claude Julien gives newly signed backup goaltender Marty Turco one of the two starts this weekend against the Capitals and Penguins respectively. If its Tim Thomas it will be his eighth straight appearance, but hes coming off a solid 19-save outing in the win over the Buffalo Sabres. Tomas Vokoun has made both starts against the Bruins this season and is 1-1 with a 3.03 goals against average and a .902 save percentage against them while coming off a needed overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tom Brady: Achilles injury 'nothing to worry about'

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Tom Brady: Achilles injury 'nothing to worry about'

FOXBORO — Within 30 seconds of his Friday press conference beginning, Tom Brady was talking about biscuits. That should tell you how small a deal he considers the Achilles tendon issue that kept him out of Wednesday’s practice. 

Brady practiced for the second straight day Friday, after which he confirmed that he will be good to go Sunday against the Dolphins. 

“I feel great. Ready to go, so I’ll be excited for Sunday and it feels good to get a little extra treatment,” Brady said. “I’m feeling great this time of year. It will be a fun week. Nothing to worry about.”

After that, Brady spoke about the aforementioned Thanksgiving biscuits of which he posted pictures on Instagram. He said they were good. Rob Gronkowski said he wanted some and that there would be “problems” if Brady didn’t bring any in for him. Everyone got a real kick out of it. 

It’s hard to imagine Brady’s status for Sunday having actually been up in the air. He has gone 134 consecutive regular-season games without missing time do to injury. His only absence in that span came in the form of last season’s four-game suspension for Deflategate. 
 

Friday Bag: By all accounts, Brady is well-heeled

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Friday Bag: By all accounts, Brady is well-heeled

I'm going dark meat to start things off. Love all meats here -- other than tofurky, which I'm not positive is a real thing -- but dark meat is the best value on the board. Give me a whole turkey leg (should qualify) and not only am I satiated, but I all of a sudden have something on my plate that few others do. Value! For potatoes, have to go mashed and gravy. My value game plan is already out the window, but I can't go with anything else. This will come back to bite me. Give me the bread stuffing and brussels for my sides. Not even factoring in cost here. When done right, those are my No. 1 and 2. Plenty of cash left. Feeling good. I'll take dinner rolls for the bread because all of those breads listed are just gravy sponges for me. Biscuits aren't $1,500 better than dinner rolls when it comes to absorption. OK. Dessert. Don't have as much cash as I thought, but this is fine. It's fine. I'm not a gotta-have-pumpkin-pie-or-it's-not-Thanksgiving guy. Give me apple and I'm happy. If I do that, I've only got $5,000 left. I'll take banana pudding pie for my final selection and use the leftover $500 for a scoop of Brigham's vanilla ice cream for my apple slice. 

Why yes, Jim. There’s my karaoke go-to “Brandy” by Looking Glass.  I also can do a nice rendition of Iggy Pop’s “Candy”, “4th of July Asbury Park (aka, Sandy)” by Bruce Springsteen, “Handy Man” by James Taylor, “Some Kind of Wonderful” by Grand Funk Railroad, “Laid” by James, “Bluer than Blue” by Michael Johnson, “J’aurais Toujours Faim De Toi” by The Police and James McMurtry’s “Choctaw Bingo,” which is the greatest song in American music. IMHO!

If the canned stuff is in front of me, I'm eating it. Not necessarily seeking it out, but I'll never scoff at it. No place for elitism at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Yes, Dave. Sometimes I just look at the Twitter question and think, “Hmmm. Good question. I don’t think I definitively know the answer to it . . . ” and then just scroll on by. However, in this instance, because of the promise made, I must respond. The answer is: I don’t know. Brady rarely has soft-tissue injuries because that’s everything his training and conditioning is aimed at stopping. I don’t know if this is just soreness or exertion-related or if someone stepped on the thing. Honestly, you’d prefer the latter because then it’s a trauma that would be healing as opposed to the thing being stretched like a banjo string. Either way, it was related to me that it’s not a big deal.

Not a huge concern, Rich. He was back at practice Thursday. Something to keep an eye on moving forward, but nothing to lose sleep over at this point. 

Happy Thanksgiving, Giant Wally. Neither has started practicing so it’s tough to handicap. Mitchell, to me, would be the safer choice if it were one or the other. Danny Amendola’s been brilliant but he’s got a ton on his plate and needs his workload trimmed. Mitchell could help with that (even if they don’t necessarily play the same spot in the offense). And Giardi? It’s eight years this month that he and I have worked together. Long road for two guys who worked at rival weeklies back in 1992 and 1993 (Barnstable Patriots for me; Falmouth Enterprise for him). Love having him on our team. Nobody does the hockey, baseball, football combo better nor does anyone else get in the trenches in locker rooms and press conferences and formulate fact-based opinions and analysis like he does. Big value in talking to players and coaches directly then passing it on to the audience.

If I'm the Patriots, I'd hold out hope that Mitchell can get to the point where he's healthy enough to contribute. He's on the right track, but he's still not practicing so we're in a holding pattern at the moment. The reason I'd go Mitchell over Valentine is that the Patriots are relatively thin at wideout. We're expecting Chris Hogan to come back and be himself eventually, but it looks like he's going to miss another game this weekend. Another injury to that spot and things would look dire there. Though the Patriots run defense could use the kind of boost that Valentine would provide, the Patriots can make up for deficiencies at defensive tackle a little bit easier. 

Absolutely, JT. The simple fact that the Patriots are 10 games into what will be a 17-to-19-game season means that the likelihood someone gets compromised physically is still pretty high. His relevance as a bigger back is presumably coming along with the cold and the wind. The Patriots have been screwing with bad coverage linebackers the past two weeks with Denver and Oakland and every other back is a better pass-catcher than Gillislee. I don’t think he’s been exiled. 

It's probably between Waddle and Jonathan Jones. Waddle has been tremendous in Marcus Cannon's absence, and Jones may have an argument as the team's most consistent corner from Week 1 until now. That says a lot about how Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore have played this year, but Jones' coverage has been sound, and his timing to contest passes has been impeccable. Kyle Van Noy deserves an honorable mention here as well. He's taken on the hybrid end/linebacker role with Dont'a Hightower out and more than held his own. Danny Amendola's volume of production would've been deemed a surprise, but with Julian Edelman out, not sure he qualifies. Always had the skill and trust from Tom Brady to do what he's doing. Just needed good health and opportunity. 

I'm looking on the defensive side. I'm looking at the front-seven in particular. I'm inclined to add to the edge with someone like Khalil Mack, Von Miller or Cameron Jordan -- all of whom are dynamic pass-rushers but would also excel against the run in Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. They need bodies there. But Aaron Donald -- who plays on the interior -- is just so talented that I wouldn't be able to pass him up. He'd rush the passer. He'd help their run defense. And he'd garner enough attention that it would make the others around him better. That's my choice. 

Just don’t call me late for DINNER!!!! Know what I mean Bob-O, Bobby, Bob-a-loo!!!!!!????? Happy Thanksgiving errrrryone. 

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