Boychuk headed to Austria's Red Bulls

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Boychuk headed to Austria's Red Bulls

Johnny Boychuk became the latest member of the Bruins to exit Boston for a hockey job overseas when he confirmed to CSNNE.com that hes signed with the Salzburg Red Bulls in the Austrian First Division Hockey League.

Boychuk becomes the 11th member of the Bruins the most of any NHL team -- to head over to Europe for a hockey job while the NHL and NHLPA have surpassed Day 60 of the NHL lockout in North America.

The Red Bulls boast former Bs goaltender Alex Auld on their roster, but it appears that Boychuk will be the first NHL refugee to sign on with Salzburg since the lockout.

Boychuk, ever the mirthful prankster, joked with CSNNE.com that hed signed with the Melbourne Down Unders before coming clean about his contract with the Red Bulls. The Boychuk signing in Europe means that four of Bostons six projected starting defensemen are currently playing in Europe, and the sixth Dougie Hamilton is still playing OHL junior hockey for the Niagara IceDogs.

That leaves Adam McQuaid as the only Bs blueliner that isnt currently experiencing game-intensity while getting ready for a potential shortened season. The 28-year-old Boychuk is entering the first year of a three-year, 10 million contract extension with the Bruins, and put up 15 points in 77 games for Boston last season.

Boychuk did have a scheduled appearance with Brad Marchand at a Providence Bruins game on Dec. 2, but it appears he wont be able to make that event. The defenseman is told CSNNE.com that he leaves right away for Austria, and probably wont be back until the dreaded lockout has finally ended.

Boychuk had been a staple at the morning skates in Boston among locked out Bruins players over the last two months, but their numbers had dwindled down to just Shawn Thornton, Mike Mottau and Daniel Paille skating with a handful of other NHL players on Friday.

As with all NHL skaters in Europe, Boychuk has an out clause in his deal that will allow him to return to Boston when the NHL regular season is ready to begin.

Branch carries on with productive season after suspension is overturned

Branch carries on with productive season after suspension is overturned

FOXBORO – The first snap of the game for the Los Angeles Rams offense was an inside handoff to running back Todd Gurley. He was summarily stuffed by Patriots defensive lineman Alan Branch for a 1-yard loss.

It was happenstance, of course, that the Rams chose to run right at Branch. But it was no coincidence that the Branch was there to envelop Gurley like an upright sofa. The 6-foot-6, 350-pound, 31-year-old has been doing that all season. And on Saturday, word broke that he will be able to continue doing so, uninterrupted by NFL discipline.

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

Branch, who was set to be suspended by the NFL for testing positive for marijuana, had his suspension rescinded by the league. The league did so without hearing the appeal Branch filed. Apparently, they decided they just got it wrong. The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe reports that the traces of marijuana in Branch’s system were from a previously failed test and did not constitute a separate incident.

It’s been a strange season for Branch, a quirky, goofy, good-natured guy who dances during practices, stretching, on the sidelines and in between plays more than any other Patriot. That’s if any other Patriot actually dances. Branch was suspended by the team for a week during training camp. Reason unknown.

Regardless, his play’s been very good.

“This has definitely been the most productive year I’ve had so far,” he said. “Is it my best? When it comes to numbers it probably would be but there’s a lot of plays and a lot of games I could have done better. I’m kinda my own worst critic.”

Why has he been so productive?

“It’s a good defense for me,” he explained. “The playcalls and way we play goes to my strength to allow me to make plays and I’m making them.”

Branch has 40 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble this season. He had just that lone tackle on the stat sheet on Sunday, but he was a factor even if the stats don’t say so. During one first-half rush, Branch worked upfield with a bull rush, then spun back to his right to get in the face of Rams quarterback Jared Goff, forcing an incompletion.  

“That’s all reaction,” said Branch. “That was a hard day’s work on that play because I kept reacting and reacting and then I was right there. I just get out there and try to cause some ruckus.”

Meanwhile, the would-be suspension caused a ruckus for Branch prior to Saturday.

“I was upset because I knew I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “Having my name out there for my family and friends and my kids family and friends to see, you never want to have that on you. But I just wanted to go out there and take it one day at a time and play my best ball because I felt pretty confident that I was going to win the appeal or whatever was going to happen. I expected it because I didn’t see how it could go any other way when I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Asked if the league reached out to apologize for getting it wrong, Branch said, “I haven’t gotten anything yet. I haven’t read any emails yet, I haven’t opened my emails.”

Asked if he cares to hear an apology, Branch said, “I do care. I don’t know if it’s an apology or what (that he’s seeking) but the position I was put in was something else.”