Bruins' Lucic, Marchand getting motivation back

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Bruins' Lucic, Marchand getting motivation back

For long periods of November both Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand were absent from the informal skates held by locked out NHL players around Boston. Marchand was shuttling back-and-forth between Boston and his native Nova Scotia and squeezed in a few moose-hunting trips with his dad given the rare spare time at his disposal. Lucic has a new bride and is expecting his first child at the end of January, and was also very surprised that the lockout actually lasted into December.

Otherwise, Lucic might have headed over to Europe for a month or two to stay sharp like a dozen of his Bruins teammates, but instead he stuck around the Hub with Shawn Thornton, Mike Mottau, Keith Yandle, Ryan Whitney, Jay Pandolfo and other local players. But the Bs power forward admitted he got a little discouraged over the last few weeks, and stopped skating regularly during the month of November. Motivation was a difficult thing to come by when he didnt have a likely regular season start date that he could be shooting for.

Ive been using the word hope a lot, so lets hope things get solved, said Lucic. It definitely was difficult to stay motivated when the NHL cancelled the entire month of November. It was really hard. It came to a point where I decided to step back from the ice a bit because I felt like I was hurting myself rather than helping myself.

It was more into getting healthy in all my off-ice stuff. But last month was definitely tough. With Tuesday happening and hopefully something happening on Wednesday you get that fire burning again.

The fire is important for Lucic because the 6-foot-3, 230-pound forwards engine historically takes some time to get running at high efficiency, and hed need some time to ramp up for a shortened regular season.

Marchand admitted much the same thing while sticking around North America unless there came a time when the entire 2012-13 season was cancelled. But perhaps in an encouraging sign the players truly believe progress is coming, both Lucic and Marchand were among a large group of players skating at an informal practice on Tuesday.

Thats a long way from two or three weeks ago when skating day after day seemed a little hopeless.

Its gone on longer than I thought it would and longer than I had hoped it would, said Marchand. Hopefully something will get done so the season doesnt get cancelled. Its been tough at times. Youre so unsure about whats going to happen and the future of the game.

It can get tough getting up, and sometimes the skates arent very good or the workouts arent very long. But you work out for a reason and you need to make sure you stay in game shape.

If motivation was a challenge in November it certainly doesnt seem to be the case now. Marchand was buzzing around at Tuesdays practice with his typical extra gear of skating speed and willingness to stick his nose into high traffic areas. Thats a good sign Marchand is quickly getting ready for an NHL season that might finally be arriving later than scheduled.

Gronkowsk hoping to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon

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Gronkowsk hoping to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowsi had what was, for him, an incredibly quiet game against the Texans on Thursday. He saw 14 snaps and ran just one route. He did see a target from rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett when he ran that route, but it floated high over his head and sailed out of the end zone incomplete. 

In his first game action since suffering a hamstring injury on Aug. 15, the Patriots chose to being their All-Pro tight end along slowly, but he's hoping that he'll be more involved in the very near future. 

"You’ve got to be careful with any injury, but I mean, if you research hamstrings, if you know anything about hamstrings, you’ve definitely got to be careful," he said. "You’ve got to progress. You can’t just hop back in and be full-go 100 percent. I wish it was like that. I can’t wait until I’m going freakin' crazy out there again. So I’m just progressing myself into it and feeling better every single day."

Gronkowski was back on the practice field for his team's workout in full pads on Wednesday. He was spotted running through drills and catching passes from tight ends coach Brian Daboll, and he did not appear to be visibly limited. After running around in a game, albeit briefly, Gronkowski explained that he experienced no setbacks.

"I felt good, definitely," Gronkowski said of playing under the lights. "You’re always sore no matter what after playing a game. No matter if you play 10 plays or 70 plays, [you’re] definitely sore like any other game. But no setbacks. No nothing. Feeling good and just progressing every day."

Regardless of who happens to be playing quarterback for the Patriots against the Bills on Sunday -- whether it's Jimmy Garoppolo or Brissett, both of whom practiced Wednesday -- having Gronkowski on the field and closer to his usual level of participation should help. 

"They’re doing very well, very excellent," Gronkowski said of Garoppolo and Brissett's performances with Tom Brady out. "Every single day, they’re just trying to improve and progress every day. This week, you just see everyone throughout the team, everyone is just trying to progress . . . The coaches do a great job of getting the quarterbacks prepared. If there is something there that we need to get on the same page with the quarterbacks on, we’ll talk, but the coaches do an excellent job of getting the quarterbacks ready."

McAdam: Doesn't take long for second-guessing of Farrell to resume

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McAdam: Doesn't take long for second-guessing of Farrell to resume

Three takeaways from the Red Sox' 6-4 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday night . . . 

1) Long relief may be short for the Red Sox in the postseason

The news that Drew Pomeranz won't start Thursday and is dealing with forearm soreness was ominous -- to say the least. While the Sox aren't concerned enough to order up an MRI for the lefty, it seems a fair bet that he won't pitch again this season. Pomeranz wasn't going to crack the postseason rotation and would likely have been relegated to relief duty. Now, even that seems a stretch.

Add that development to the continued absence of Steven Wright and the Red Sox are missing 40 percent of their rotation from late July and early August.

Healthy, both would have been stretched-out and available to provide multiple innings in the postseason.

Of course, most teams would prefer to not have to rely on long men in the postseason, since their very appearance in a game would signifiy that a starter got knocked out early.

When that happens, however, it's nice to have experienced, dependable arms to cover innings and not impact the bullpen's high-leverage pitchers.

Now, in such a scenario, the Sox will likely have to turn to either Robbie Ross Jr. or Heath Hembree.

2) Is Aaron Hill heating up?

In the month of September, Hill has posted a line of .381/.409/.571. On Tuesday night, he blasted a pinch-hit homer.

Admittedly, that's a relatively small sample size. But Hill has had better at-bats of late, especially against lefties.

It's doubtful that he'll take over third base -- now or in the postseason -- full-time, since John Farrell has two left-handed hitting options, with Travis Shaw and Brock Holt. Shaw certainly more power and has shown the ability to go on hot streaks at the plate.

But Hill is a veteran player, albeit one with little postseason experience (11 at-bats in the Division Series for Arizona in 2011) for a 12-year veteran.

And one other benefit: Hill is a .373 career hitter as a pinch-hitter, making him a valuable part off the bench in games started by either Holt or Shaw.

3) One loss is all it took for the second-guessing to resurface

The Sox had won 11 straight before Tuesday's loss, which quickly re-introduced criticism of Farrell.

Starter David Price had given up four runs through six innings, but the Sox rallied for two runs off Tommy Layne in the seventh to tie things at 4-4.

At 76 pitches, Price went back out for the seventh and promptly yielded a two-run homer to Tyler Austin, giving the Yanks another two-run lead.

Price hadn't been sharp in the first six. With expanded rosters, plenty of available relievers and a rested bullpen after a day off Monday, why stick with Price?

Offered Farrell: "You go with a right-hander they’re going to go with [Mark] Teixeira and [Brian] McCann with that right-field porch,” Farrell said. “Wanted to keep the (right-handed hitters) in the ballgame, (but Price) mislocated over the plate.”