FOXBORO -- Chances are, Bill Belichick won't tell you what he tells his team, leading into Sunday's game in Miami.
But in the "Patriot Way" era, in which the only realistic goal seems to be "Super Bowl or bust," a division title is one step towards reaching that goal. And if you were to believe Belichick, you'd think the idea of Sunday being a "hat & t-shirt" game, was nothing more than the elephant in the room.
Preparing like they do each week. Nobody's talking about hats or t-shirts. It's just like any other game.
Not true. And neither is the notion that Belichick isn't emphasizing the importance of what they can leave Miami with: an AFC East Championship.
"It's a huge week for us," said the more outspoken Rob Ninkovich after Friday's practice. "We all know that. And we're excited to go play this game. I think it's that much more of a motivational game for us, to go to Miami, play a good team on the road, and come back with a hat and t-shirt.
"Belichick just emphasizes the importance of this game, to obviously sure-up the division," added Ninkovich. "And we'll talk about that if we win, but anytime you're going into a week where you know that you can win the division, you just put a lot of emphasis on making sure you go down there as a business trip. We're going down there to win the game."
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the return of Adolfo to Toucher and Rich this morning.
*Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid have received plenty of acclaim over the past couple of years as talented, young stars in the league, but Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien details how things haven’t gone ideally for either of those youngsters, or their teams, this season. Clearly, it’s not at this level yet, but just think about the hype behind Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin when they were drafted 1-2 back in 2010, and what they have, and haven’t, been able to accomplish in the league since that time.
*Outstanding rookie Brock Boeser credits a conversation with Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green for helping spark his game this season.
*Good video piece on the near miss of Wayne Gretzky almost playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs after dominating them in the playoffs.
*Salivating for some hockey trades? The 10 potential NHL trade deadline targets around the league as we wait for players to become available for trade later in the season.
*Hockeybuzz is asking what the NHL, and more specifically the Hockey Hall of Fame, has against goaltenders?
*For something completely different: A great piece from Drew Bledsoe on the tragic passing of former Patriots wide receiver Terry Glenn, and how his death came just as he seemed to be putting all the pieces of his life together.
BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins are getting closer to a healthier lineup, but it won’t be in time for the Thanksgiving Eve road tilt against the upstart New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.
Brad Marchand (upper body), Torey Krug (upper body) and David Backes (colon surgery) all skated in red no-contact jerseys at practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena, so none of those three banged-up B’s will be making the trip to Jersey. Anders Bjork (upper body) didn’t practice and is obviously out vs. the Devils as well, but Ryan Spooner might be a possibility after making it through his first full practice since tearing his groin almost six weeks ago.
If he can make it through Wednesday's morning skate without any problems, Spooner will likely be a game-time decision against the Devils after missing the past 14 games.
The Bruins have continued to indicate that Marchand is in the concussion protocol, though it appears the Bruins agitator is dealing with both upper body and lower body issues. Marchand was encouraged by the progress he’s making while returning to practice, so perhaps the B’s could get back one of their leading scorers sooner rather than later.
“I feel pretty good. It’s good to be back with the guys and feel like you’re a part of the team,” said Marchand, who has missed five of the past seven games after returning for the home-and-home against the Maple Leafs. “It’s frustrating whenever you miss games and you miss time away from the team, but they had a great road trip and they’re playing well. It would be nice to be back in the lineup consistently and be back with the team...it’ll come.”
Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Devils based on practice Tuesday: