Patriots

Thomas regaining his mojo with new look

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Thomas regaining his mojo with new look

LOS ANGELES, CA The numbers are indisputable, and the smile on Tim Thomas face is instructive.

The 37-year-old goaltender is feeling it now in a way that he wasnt over the previous couple of months, and has been perhaps the single biggest factor pushing the Bruins back into their winning ways. Thomas stopped 40 of the 42 shots that he faced in his teams 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center, and played a major role in an important road win for the Black and Gold.

I still think theres some growth that we need to have with eight games left to go in the season, said Thomas. Id prefer the Bruins of a few games ago where we score a few goals early and we have that cushion of a couple goals. But the win is the most important part.

Thomas has a .946 save percentage in his last four games while putting together a 1.50 goals against average and a 3-1 record during that span of good fortune, and hes also got some nifty new equipment. Thomas ditched his old pads and stick after the horrendous trip through Pittsburgh and Florida, and showed up for his home game against the Flyers with new goalie pads colored with black and white shading.

Thomas said his old pads were starting to break down and had been so weighed down with sweat from the games in Florida that he wanted to opt for some equipment with some stiffness.

It looks like the rigid new pads are working out. Thomas has been like himself again over the last two weeks, and was at his best when the Bruins needed him in Los Angeles. He made 12 saves in the first period to match Jonathan Quick, and then Thomas kicked out a strong extended leg save on a Slava Voynov bid with a wide open net on the backdoor.

Thomas lucked out that Voynov flung the puck right back into Thomas leg pads with the while open net to shoot for, and there was certainly luck involved when Mike Richards dinged a slot shot off the left post.

The Voynov stop highlighted the Bs penalty kill efforts to shut down a Los Angeles man advantage with their best PK player, Zdeno Chara, off the ice with a high-sticking penalty.

But Thomas was more good than he was lucky while stopping 17 pucks in the third period. He also got defensive support from Chara with a kicking stop of a Kings shot headed for the back of the net in the final minutes of the third.

Sometimes you do what youve got to do with everybody getting thrown at the net, said Thomas. I was lucky to have a 6-foot-9 giant on my side.

Nearly every stop on Thomas part was a deft, acrobatic stop from a master goaltender, and belied the fact that it was the 15th straight game for the All-Star netminder.

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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