Celtics

Haggerty's Bruins-Sabres game preview

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Haggerty's Bruins-Sabres game preview

BUFFALO The Bruins certainly shouldnt be lacking for motivation Friday night when they storm the frozen sheet in Brad Marchands favorite city.

The Bruins will be looking to put together their first consecutive wins since Jan. 12 during a stretch thats seen the Black and Gold go a thoroughly mediocre 8-9-1 during that span. That will be the rallying cry for a point-starved Bruins team looking to get the victory wagon rolling again.

Its about bringing the same effort and bringing the same intensity, said Patrice Bergeron, perhaps the perfect spokesman for the Bs. Its about playing our game and playing our system. Consistency is something that we have to have coming down the stretch and it starts tonight.

But theres more than that. Tuukka Rask was pulled from the last tilt in Buffalo after allowing three goals on 10 shots, and was embarrassed enough that he felt it necessary to apologize to Tim Thomas on ice as the 37-year-old netminder was called in to replace him.

Buffalo obviously pretty much embarrassed us in the last game. We have to be prepared and we have to be ready for that big match-up tonight, said Bergeron. For us to establish consistency this is a huge game for us.

It was the worst Bs defeat in nearly four years to a team like Buffalo with players like Ryan Miller and Patrick Kaleta that are pretty clearly despised within the Boston room. So one doesnt have to guess the Bruins will be trending highly on the motivation scale playing a team thats still harboring fantastical hopes for playoff life this season, but in essence has zero shot at the postseason.

Its been a star-crossed season for a Buffalo team thats been hit by injuries, but has also been beset with questions about their heart and character when they didnt respond to Milan Lucic burying their skin-and-bones goaltender all the way back on Nov. 12. The Bruins were in the middle of going 12-0-1 that month when they emasculated the Sabres on the TD Garden ice, and they still have inside their dressing room.

Theyre down both Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley at this point and the rumor mill is inviting Dustin Brown in as the trade deadline target du jour for Boston, but now is as good a time as any if the Bruins plan on a strong finishing kick.

Weve got to have the same mindset. We were a determined group in that last game. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort level a little bit in order to accomplish that, said Claude Julien. We need to carry that into that tonight. Our focus should be on that and nothing else. Lets put all of the other distractions aside and focus on the job.

With wins in Buffalo and Ottawa this weekend, the Bruins can finish with a 4-2-0 road trip that once seemed destined for February doldrums disaster.

The proof will be out on the ice earning the two points rather than idle chatter about consistency and winning streaks, and the proceedings get started at 7:30 p.m.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Tyler Seguin has only one goal in 11 games since NHL All-Star weekend and spoke on Thursdays off-day about the monkey on his back. With partner Brad Marchand notching a pair of goals in Bostons last game against the Blues and skipping ahead of Seguin for the team-lead in goals, the 20-year-old should flying against the Sabres. Seguin has squeezed off 37 shots in 10 games during the month of February, and has just the single goal to show for it.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Hopefully we can put a few wins in a row here rather than back-and-forth with wins and losses, and the flip-flopping, said Seguin. The last few days weve been having fun with our jobs. Lately it hadnt been too much fun with way too much negative energy . . . myself included. Tyler Seguin tapped into the positive vibes against the Blues and wants to keep it going.

KEY MATCHUP: Buffalo youngster Zack Kassian was often compared to Milan Lucic when he was drafted by the Sabres in the first round three years ago and now should find himself in the lineup against No. 17. Kassian was called up in the days following Bostons first game in Buffalo when Lucic squared off against Paul Gaustad in a bell-answering move in connection with his collision with Ryan Miller. Tonight might be the game when the master gets challenged by the up-and-coming apprentice, and Kassian gets to see how he stacks up against his power forward role model.

STAT TO WATCH: 8 the number of times that the Bruins have allowed six or more goals in a game since the 2008-09 season including once this season in 6-0 loss to the Sabres.

INJURIES: Corey Tropp was called up to Buffalo from AHL Rochester and practiced in place of injured forward Brad Boyes (hand). Cody McCormick (upper body) and Jochen Hecht (concussion) are both out for the Sabres. Nathan Horton (mild concussion) and Rich Peverley (sprained knee) are out for the Bruins. Shawn Thornton (flu) has missed practices, but is expected to play for the Bruins.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask is expected to get the start for the Bruins and hes looking to snap a five-game losing streak and avenge getting pulled against Buffalo on Feb. 8 in his last appearance at the first Niagara Center. Ryan Miller will get the start for the Sabres and is 5-3-3 with a 2.03 goals against average during a sparkling month of February.

Celtics won't be broken by Hayward's injury

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Celtics won't be broken by Hayward's injury

BOSTON -- These are tough, heart-tugging times for the Boston Celtics, who are less than 24 hours removed from the gruesome left-ankle injury suffered by Gordon Hayward in the first quarter of their 102-99 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday.
 
Hayward is scheduled to have surgery today, and potentially could be out for the entire season.
 
As much as their hearts go out to Hayward and his family, the Celtics know they can’t spend too much time sulking. The nature of this business won’t allow them, evident by the fact the C's step back on the floor tonight to host the Milwaukee Bucks.
 
“You hurt for him,” said coach Brad Stevens. “He’s put in a lot of great work. I thought he had his most comfortable week as far as feeling like he was going to play really well. It’s a tough, tough deal but I guess that’s part of it, the risk of injury. I really feel for him.”
 
But in the same breath, Stevens is a realist.
 
He's been in the league long enough to know that grieving for a lost player won’t help that player in the short-term. Or the team, for that matter.

MORE ON GORDON HAYWARD

 
The best way the Celtics can help Hayward is to continue to compete in his absence.
 
We saw that in last night’s loss to the Cavaliers.
 
When Hayward was carted off the floor, the Celtics were ahead, 12-9. The lead disappeared and was eventually replaced by an 18-point deficit, only for Boston to chip away and eventually go ahead in the fourth quarter.
 
But down the stretch, too much LeBron James and Kevin Love would prove to be too much for the Celtics to overcome.
 
While the loss was disappointing, it gave the team some insight into how to fight on now that one of its main guys will be out for a significant amount of time.
 
We saw Jaylen Brown emerge from being a second-year pro on the rise into a matchup problem who dropped a career-high 25 points on the Cavs.
 
And Jayson Tatum reminded us all that he’s a teenager in age only, finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. The last rookie to tally a double-double for the Celtics in his opening night debut was Larry Bird in 1979, who had an identical 14-point, 10-rebound line.


 
But Bird didn’t have to play most of that game with one of the then top-three Celtics out for all but the game’s first five minutes.
 
When it comes to adversity, NBA players don’t have the luxury to pick which ones to handle and which ones to pass on. They either step up to the challenge or be consumed by it.
 
Under Stevens, Door Number One is the only option under consideration.
 
And since Stevens has been in Boston, his players have risen to the challenge.
 
That doesn’t mean they'll win every game, but they've shown the ability to at least be competitive. And in defeat, they'll refuse to use injury as an excuse.
 
That means younger players like Brown and Tatum will assume a larger role at both ends of the floor if Boston is to make it through these tough times relatively unscathed.
 
Veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Smart will be leaned upon more heavily to be leaders, both on and off the floor.
 
And Stevens, considered by many to be one of the better coaches in the NBA, will once again be tasked with making on-the-fly adjustments with his lineup and rotations under less-than-ideal conditions.
 
Nobody hurts more than Stevens when it comes to Hayward’s injury. Remember, he's known him longer than anyone associated with the Celtics, having recruited Hayward to play for Butler. It was the platform that launched both of their NBA careers.
 
Which is why the way he approaches not having Hayward is the example for all his players to follow.
 
Shortly after the loss to the Cavs, Stevens was asked about moving on while handling the emotional dynamics of losing Hayward for an extended period of time.
 
“We’ll be ready to play [tonight],” Stevens said with a heightened level of seriousness in his voice that spoke to how important it was to him and his players that they came out and performed at their best on Tuesday against Cleveland.

And that's the blueprint required for them going forward if they hope to be successful in handling adversity as it comes their way.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

0:41 - Kyle Draper, Brain Scalabrine, Tommy Heinsohn, and Mike Gorman break down the Celtics loss to the Cavs and Gordon Hayward’s injury.

4:22 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions to the gruesome injury to Gordon Hayward and how it impacted the game.

9:39 - Dr. Chris Chihlas joins BST to give his medical opinion on Gordon Hayward and if he thinks there is a chance Hayward could return this season. 

13:40 - Chris Mannix and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss what the feeling was like in the arena when Hayward went down but how there is actually a 'cautious optimism' surrounding the injury.