Bruins

Wendell leads NFL in playing time statistic

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Wendell leads NFL in playing time statistic

FOXBORO -- Between quarterback Tom Brady, receiver Wes Welker, linebacker Jerod Mayo and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, the Patriots are loaded with star power. It's a team that possesses Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers. But there's one Patriot who was out on the field more than any other this season, and he's never been to Hawaii.

That distinction goes to Patriots center Ryan Wendell, who started all 16 games this season, and not only led his team in playing time, but the entire NFL as well.

The first-year starter played 1,231 offensive snaps and 148 special teams plays for a total of 1,379 plays. The mark is a tribute to Wendell's durability and toughness, but he praised teammates and team staff when asked about his ability to stay on the field.

"It says a lot about the organization as a whole," Wendell said. "The guys around us, our athletic trainers head athletic trainer Jim Whalen and assistant athletic trainer Joe Van Allen, along with the strength training coaches, head strength and conditioning coach Herald Nash, assistant strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera, who spend a lot of time and effort trying to make sure we're healthy and out on the field as much as we can."

The Patriots had the NFL's most productive offense (both in terms of points and total yards) this season and set an NFL record for first downs, which led to a few of their offensive players being among the league leaders in playing time. Nate Solder led all of the NFL in offensive snaps (three more than Wendell). His 105 special teams snaps and 1,339 total plays put him second overall in the league.

"I think we all feed off each other," Solder said. "Wendell's one of those guys who's always working hard. He's always taking care of his body, I think that's a big part of the reason he's been able to do that."

Both Solder and Wendell are playing in roles that have increased significantly since last season. Solder, a rookie last year, is in his first season as New England's full-time starting left tackle. Wendell was thrust into a starting role when longtime Patriots center Dan Koppen was released, and Brian Waters did not return to the team during training camp, shifting Dan Connolly to guard.

However, both explained that there was no trick to their durability.

"I work hard, as we all do to take care of our bodies," Solder explained. "We all work hard to take care of our bodies. That's part of our job. Proper nutrition, proper sleep. Staying in shape. Working in the weight room. All those things contribute to that."

"I think you try to keep doing all the things that got you to the point that you got those opportunities," Wendell said, "and you just have to make sure to keep your priorities in order that when you have any extra time or free time that you focus on whatever thing will help you personally stay healthy."

Wendell's extra effort has given the Patriots consistency at the position where every offensive play gets its start. His impact has not gone unnoticed by his teammates, most notably the teammate who's on the receiving end of Wendell's snaps.

"Hes done a great job," Brady said of his center. "Hes really done a great job since he got here. He fought for his opportunity and once he got it this year, he really took advantage. Hes been healthy and durable, consistent. Playing center on our team is not easy. There are a lot of adjustments and calls that we have, both the communication I have with him and what he relays on to the rest of the offensive linemen. Hes done a great job. Hes a tough, hard-nosed football player that loves the game and loves to compete."

The NFL released playing time numbers for the first time this season, and FootballOutsiders.com compiled those numbers into a list here.

Talking Points: DeBrusk provides energy in win

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Talking Points: DeBrusk provides energy in win

GOLD STAR: Jake DeBrusk gave the Bruins all kinds of energy out of the starting gate, and made a couple of plays that allowed his team to hold a lead despite getting outplayed in the opening 20 minutes. DeBrusk went hard to the net splitting a couple of San Jose defenders on the first goal, and fired a shot on net that created a rebound for Peter Cehlarik to cash in on. Then DeBrusk scored a little bit later on a rush where he beat Brent Burns in a foot race to a loose puck, then whistled a wrist shot past Aaron Dell for his fourth goal of the season. DeBrusk finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net while falling just short of 16 minutes of ice time in the victory. It was a strong effort from DeBrusk shortly after being a healthy scratch, and showed what he’s capable of when he gets his skating legs going.

BLACK EYE: Brent Burns was a complete mess for the Sharks. He was burnt by Jake DeBrusk in each of the first two Bruins goals in the first period with the B’s rookie going right at him with the attack. He also didn’t make it to the net with 12 of the 16 shots that he attempted and Burns finished with seven giveaways as well. It’s been a rough follow-up season for Burns after last year’s Norris Trophy season where he’s tried to do too much for the Sharks, and his game has suffered as a result. That seemed to be the case for Burns against the Bruins as well where his mistakes played a big role in the Sharks dropping the game.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins won the game when they managed to survive an opening 20 minutes where they were outshot 17-5, and even better they had a 2-1 lead based on some offensive fireworks from Jake DeBrusk. They were also aided by a couple of video reviews where the Bruins took a San Jose goal off the board when it was ruled that a crashing Joonas Donskoi punched a puck into the net with his glove. The Peter Cehlarik goal was also upheld at the other end after a challenge from the San Jose bench. It looked like DeBrusk was tripped before he partially crashed into Aaron Dell that set up the Cehlarik goal, and that’s clearly how the referees saw it after reviewing the play.

HONORABLE MENTION: It’s got to be Anton Khudobin, who stopped 36-of-37 shots and improved to 5-0-2 on the season with another strong win aided by a stalwart defensive effort in front of him. Khudobin now has 12 of the 20 points that the Bruins have amassed on the season, and he absolutely rewarded the B’s for opting to go with the Bruins backup for a second game in a row as they ride the hot goaltender. Khudobin was helped by a number of Bruins blocked shots in the third period when the game was still very tight, but it was also about Khudobin coming up with 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were getting outplayed by the Sharks.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 – the number of Bruins rookies that have scored their first NHL goals this season, including Peter Cehlarik finally getting his first NHL score Saturday night in his 14th career game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We need them. They’re in the lineup and they’re playing significant minutes. We need them to produce for us. Tonight we needed some offense early, and they provided it for us.” – Bruce Cassidy, on the role of the rookies in the win where it was all first-year players Peter Cehlarik, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen doing the scoring vs. San Jose. 

Khudobin stops 36 shots to help Bruins beat Sharks, 3-1

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Khudobin stops 36 shots to help Bruins beat Sharks, 3-1

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Anton Khudobin stopped 36 shots to lead the Boston Bruins to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

Peter Cehlarik, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen scored to help the Bruins get their second straight win after a four-game skid (0-3-1). Boston had totaled nine goals in its previous five games, scoring more than two for just the second time in nine November games.

Khudobin remained unbeaten in regulation (5-0-2) and improved to 4-1 with a 0.99 goals-against average in five games against the Sharks.

Timo Meier scored and Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves for the Sharks, one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. San Jose has been held to two of fewer goals in five of their seven games this month.

Meier gave the Sharks, losers of two straight following wins in six of seven, a short-lived 1-0 lead after tapping in a rebound 4:50 into the game. Daniel O'Regan, making his season debut, won the puck behind the net and skated around to take the shot that bounced to Meier. It was O'Regan's first career assist and second career point.

Cehlarik, in his 14th game, scored his first career goal about 1 1/2 minutes later to tie it for the Bruins.

Boston took the lead on DeBrusk's goal with 9:14 left in the first. Charlie McAvoy cleared a puck in his zone that DeBrusk chased down and easily beat Dell 1-on-1.

Heinen made it 3-1 with 5:51 left in the third. Kevan Miller skated down the ice, drawing all the attention on the right side. He passed across the crease, from where Heinen tapped it in.

The Sharks had a goal negated for the second straight game, this one two minutes in.

NOTES: Sharks F Danny O'Regan was recalled before the game. He's the leading scorer for the Barracuda of the AHL. ... The Sharks have had three consecutive goals reversed after challenges dating to Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers. ... Sharks F Joel Ward has recorded points in six of his last eight games. ... DeBrusk, who assisted on Cehlarik's goal, recorded his first multi-point game since Oct. 14, a span of 14 games.

UP NEXT

Bruins: At the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

Sharks: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.