Bruins preparing for 48-game season sprint


Bruins preparing for 48-game season sprint

BOSTON -- Bruins President Cam Neely described the 48-game shortened season he played during the 1994-95 NHL regular season as a fast and furious campaign that was one of the most enjoyable of his career. It makes plenty of sense given the import of each game in a truncated schedule, and the elimination of the dog days that can sometimes drag down a run-of-the-mill 82-game regular season.

Now the current edition of the Bruins will get a chance to experience it when they hope to open a 48-game schedule on Jan. 19 after the NHL and NHLPA came to a tentative agreement on a Collective Bargaining Agreement last weekend.

Its going to be interesting. Even when you play an 82-game schedule and you have a bad start it becomes difficult to recover from, said Gregory Campbell. The stakes will be even higher in a shortened season. Every game will be critical.

But the good thing in a 48-game schedule is that there will be no layovers and no rest. It will be one game right after another. If you have a bad game you can jump back into it the next night. It will just be a challenge to stay healthy and stay fresh.

Interestingly enough theres been speculation that NHL teams will be allowed to carry an extra player or two given the war of unavoidable attrition when playing 48 games in four-plus months. That should be the case for the Bruins anyway when they break out of their week-long training camp as both defenseman Adam McQuaid and forward Jordan Caron may not be healthy enough to start the year for Boston.

So the Black and Gold's organizational depth will be tested right out of the gate. But to their credit it will be the same coaching staff, nearly the same exact group of players and the same familiar system that the Bs will be slipping into. 

I know I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and myself and we have a lot to look forward to going into this year, said Milan Lucic.

Every game will be important. The Bruins will have seven games apiece against rival clubs in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Buffalo, and theyll be essentially playing hockey games every other day once the season begins.

The clich is that it turns the NHL regular season into an Olympic sprint rather than a Boston Marathon, but it's 100 percent truth. The Bruins stumbled out to a 3-7 start in their first 10 games last season while battling through the Stanley Cup hangover, and the Black and Gold cant afford that kind of malaise this time around.

Having had 12 Bruins players skating over in Europe -- at one time or another -- should go a long way toward getting the Black and Gold off to a solid beginning this time around.

With less games it becomes a sprint right away, said Lucic. Every game means so much more that we cant afford to have a start like we did last year. We cant be in a position to play catch-up like we did last year, and just maintain our level of play for the entire year.

Lucic did admit that there will be some sloppy hockey in the first few weeks back as two sets of players those that kept active in Europe and those that gathered rust while they sat idle in North America attempt to reach the same level. But a 48-game season followed by a full Stanley Cup playoff should be a rousing, rollicking success, and could actually be a little dangerous.

After all, if it turns out well, hockey lovers everywhere are going to start wondering why the NHL doesnt play a 50-game season every year.

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32


Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.

Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics


Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

BOSTON, Mass. – There’s a long way to go toward a complete resurrection from last season’s misdeeds, but Jimmy Hayes made a nice little statement that he’s learned some lessons in Boston’s preseason debut. The Bruins lost the game, 3-2, in the shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Hayes scored one of the two goals for the Black and Gold as one of the few veterans in a very youthful lineup for Boston.

The Hayes goal was a nice give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk at the end of a nice transition play in the second period, and was the highlight of a night playing on the right wing with DeBrusk and center Austin Czarnik. The score and a team-high four shots on net for Hayes represent a good start for what he hopes is a gigantic rebound season after last year’s disappointment.

Clearly Hayes heard some of the unflattering chatter about him on sports talk radio and otherwise last season, and may even understand how his difficult season in his home city of Boston -- whether he actively expressed it to him or not -- might have been a factor in his buddy Jimmy Vesey ultimately choosing New York over Boston.

It appears the former Boston College standout is looking to change the conversation in Boston. 

“Yeah, sure am. I’ve got a lot to come out here and…[there were] a lot of comments about myself, but I know I’m a good player. I got to this level for a reason,” said Hayes, who dropped from 19 goals and 35 points with the Panthers to 13 goals, 29 points and a career-worst minus-12 for the Bruins last season.

“To be able to play at the NHL level and continue to play at that level on a consistent basis is what I expect out of myself. I do it for myself and our teammates, and to help our team win. I’ll continue moving forward.

“It’s funny being the old guy on the line. It’s nice to see those young guys and see how excited they are, and how excited I am to get back out there. That’s what I said to the guys, they still have the jitters and they still have them for the first preseason game. It shows that these guys want it and it’s been a lot of fun skating with those guys. They’ve got a lot of speed and to keep pushing the pace. Trying to keep up with them has been a lot of fun.”

There is still a long way to go for the 26-year-old winger, and his willingness to stick around the danger areas on Monday night was a welcomed one for a Bruins team that needs his 6-foot-6 body in front of the net. Hayes paid the price with stitches and a fat lip after taking a Dalton Prout high-stick to the mouth in front of the Columbus net that went uncalled on a Bruins PP at the end of the second period.

That’s all part of the big man’s game on the ice, however. It’s also the kind of battle and determined fight that Hayes will need to show much more consistently in his second season with the hometown Bruins if he’s truly looking to bounce-back from last year’s mediocre performance.