Bruins

Welker's tag ambivalence good sign for Pats

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Welker's tag ambivalence good sign for Pats

The chance Wes Welker would refuse to sign his franchise tag and stick it to the Patriots has always seemed remote.

Tuesday at the Nike uniform unveiling in New York came an indication that that tactic isn't even on his radar.

Asked about the 9.5 million franchise tag he has yet to sign, Welker told reporters, "It will be half of what I made my whole contract this past time around. Not too bad. ...Not really. That's a lot of money, so I'm definitely kind of excited about it."

If Welker wanted to be militant, if he wanted to make the Patriots squirm some he'd skip passing camps and minicamps and training camp and gum up the works but good.

But it's pretty clear he won't do that, otherwise he wouldn't be sounding giddy about the financial windfall he's going to get.

This is not shaping up as a rancorous contract battle. Impasse is probably more accurate.

The Patriots' offer of 8 million per year over two years was rejected in the fall. The market established by free agents this season have made it apparent the going rate for a very good wide receiver is about 9.5 million.

If Welker plays for the franchise number this year and next, he'll make close to 21 million. If the Patriots want to make it simple on everyone, they'd simply sign him to a two-year, 20 million deal now and be done with it.

My feeling is that Welker would grab the pen from their hands.

Rask helped off ice at Bruins practice after collision

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Rask helped off ice at Bruins practice after collision

BRIGHTON, Mass – Tuukka Rask had to be helped off the ice midway through practice Wednesday when it appeared rookie Anders Bjork crashed hard into the Bruins No. 1 goaltender in a drill. 

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Rask never returned in what looked like another streak of bad luck for the B’s. Rask is off to a slow start at 1-3-0, with a 3.30 goals-against average and .882 save percentage, but Boston can ill afford to lose their top goalie right now.

The Bruins continue to look for the right mix of players at the start of the season and they’ve called up a couple of forwards off to hot starts in Providence for a look.

Big, skilled Slovakian winger Peter Cehlarik and AHL scoring champ Kenny Agostino have both been called up while it looks like some struggling NHL veterans, perhaps Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano, might be hitting the pine.

The two call-ups, along with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson were off to a red-hot start in Providence: Agostino leads Providence with two goals and five assists for seven points (tied for third in AHL) with a plus-four rating in three games this season. Cehlarik is second on the team with two goals and three assists for five points with a plus-three rating in three games with Providence.

Patrice Bergeron was again wearing the maroon no-contact jersey at practice on Wednesday while participating in line drills, and it would appear it’s going to be a stretch for him to be available vs. the Canucks. Adam McQuaid returned to practice on Wednesday, so Ryan Spooner was the only injured Bruins regular that wasn’t able to suit up and practice with the team.

Tuukka Rask had to be helped off the ice midway through practice when it looked like Anders Bjork crashed hard into the Bruins No. 1 goaltender in a drill. Rask never returned in what looked like another streak of bad luck for the B’s. Rask is off to a slow start at 1-3-0, with a 3.30 goals-against average and .882 save percentage, but Boston can ill afford to lose their top goalie right now.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Wednesday afternoon’s practice with it looking like David Backes might be up for a possible return on Thursday:  
 
Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork
DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak
Schaller-Kuraly-Backes
Cehlarik-Nash-Agostino
 
Beleskey-White-Vatrano
 
Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Miller-Postma
McQuaid
 
Rask
Khudobin
 

Butler never flips 'off' switch, even in locker-room games

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Butler never flips 'off' switch, even in locker-room games

FOXBORO -- Say this for Malcolm Butler: Since his rookie season he's proven time and again to be an utterly resilient player.

Go back to Super Bowl XLIX. He was beside himself on the sidelines after Jermaine Kearse somehow came up with an acrobatic grab on a pass he deflected in the fourth quarter. Moments later he was back on the field to make the play of life.

Against the Jets on Sunday, he had to make another -- albeit less dramatic -- turnaround.

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Early on, it wasn't pretty. He allowed a third-and-long conversion when he played well off of Robby Anderson during a first-quarter touchdown drive. He allowed 31-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley when he made a bad gamble to try to break up the throw.

Yet without Butler's interception at the end of the first half, and without his strip of Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the fourth quarter, the Patriots might be 3-3 headed into a Super Bowl rematch with the Falcons.

The competitive streak that Butler has exhibited to make game-changing moments regardless of what has happened earlier in the game is something that Bill Belichick has grown accustomed to.

"Since the first rookie minicamp," Belichick said. "He’s a very competitive player, whatever it is. Practice, games, trash ball in the locker room. Whatever it is. He’s a very competitive player."

Earlier this season, in Week 2 against the Saints, Butler was briefly demoted to the No. 3 cornerback role. After the fact, he was open about how he wasn't playing up to his own lofty standards. Since then, he's been the only regular for the Patriots at his position as Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe have dealt with injuries. 

It's been far from perfect, as moments like his breakdowns during the Jets game exhibited. But his aggressiveness rarely wanes. Even during down moments in the Patriots locker, apparently. 

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