FOXBORO -- London was one thing . . . but space?
Yes, it turns out there are Patriots fans far, far outside of the reach of New England's six states, and the team spoke to one of them on Thursday.
From the middle of New England's locker room, using a cell phone and an iPad (for video), members of the Patriots chatted with NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who hails from Needham, Mass., and is a loyal Patriots fan. She's also currently aboard the International Space Station serving as Commander of Expedition 33.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, punter Zoltan Mesko and tight end Rob Gronkowski all took time to chat with Williams as Patriots vice president of public relations Stacey James held up an iPad so the two sides could see each other.
With Gronkowski, Williams compared her equipment to what the Patriots wear on Sundays.
"Its not that difficult for us," Gronkowski said. "Arent your suits way heavier than ours? Yeah, our armor is about five or six pounds. Its a lot less than 300 pounds."
Williams has been on her current mission since July and should be on the space station through November.
"Get back safe," Gronkowski said as he handed off the phone.
During training camp the Patriots hosted NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, from Maine, another big Patriots fan.
BRIGHTON, Mass – The string of injuries for the Bruins continues as Tuukka Rask (upper body) is out for tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden after getting trucked by Anders Bjork in practice Wednesday.
Rask was wobbly-legged while being helped off the ice after the violent collision and the 21-year-old Bjork looked like he’d also needed a couple of stitches on his chin after bloodying his practice jersey.
The big concern is Rask still being evaluated by Bruins medical personnel for a possible concussion. It will be Anton Khudobin stepping in place for him against the Canucks with Providence Bruins netminder Zane McIntyre serving as his backup.
“Tuukka is out tonight. He’s going to get reevaluated today and we’ll have a better idea tomorrow,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Anton will start [against the Canucks].”
Clearly, Khudobin didn’t like seeing his goaltending partner get drilled in a spirited practice, but the 32-year-old is clearly feeling confident after a strong camp and a winning season debut last week against the Arizona Coyotes.
“You don’t want to see that, but at the same time we’ve got to keep moving forward and hopefully he’s going to get better soon,” said Khudobin, who stopped 29-of-31 shots in the win over Arizona last weekend. “I feel good. Camp was good and everything is fine, and I’ve started better than last year. My role is just day-to-day. Today is a game day and hopefully, you get a good result, and then tomorrow is another new day.”
Otherwise, it looks like the Bruins will at least be getting some of their healthy bodies back with David Backes in the lineup and Patrice Bergeron a game-time decision against the Canucks. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on Wednesday’s practice:
BOSTON — As soon as the American League Championship Series ends, the Red Sox could make a move for their manager.
Industry sources continue to expect Astros bench coach Alex Cora will be the Sox’ pick. No offer had been officially made as of midday Wednesday, one source close to the situation said. But the belief is such an offer waits out of respect to the Astros-Yankees ALCS that can end no later than Saturday if the series goes a full seven games.
“Not a doubt it is him,” the source said.
Sunday and Monday would both be off days ahead of the Tuesday night start of the World Series. That leads to the potential for at least a Red Sox announcement of Cora, if not a press conference, before the Fall Classic begins. (If the Astros advance to the World Series, it may be harder to have Cora in Boston for any length of time.)
All those who know Cora praise his ability to connect with players. The former Red Sox infielder is good friends with Dustin Pedroia. Cora’s previous knowledge of the Boston market works in his favor, as well, as does his mettle handling the media. Some question his readiness as a first-time manager, considering he would be taking over a team with great win-now expectations and complicated clubhouse dynamics.
Nothing takes the place of experience and there is such a thing as being too close to players. Ultimately, if the Sox do land Cora, 41, they would be adding the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect who’s available on the market. The everybody-wants-him reputation could give Cora added cachet with players and certainly becomes a public-relations win for those fans following the search.
The Sox interviewed Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday. Gardenhire was the third candidate the Sox talked to and could well be the last. Cora met with the Sox on Sunday, followed by Brad Ausmus on Monday.