Game info: Patriots vs. Texans

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Game info: Patriots vs. Texans

GAME TIME: 8:30 p.m. EST

TV NETWORK: ESPN (can also be seen in Boston on ABC affiliate Channel 5, WCVB-TV)

TV ANNOUNCERS: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Lisa Salters

RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Gil Santos and Scott Zolak

ALL-TIME SERIES BETWEEN THE TEAMS: Patriots lead, 2-1

LAST MEETING: Texans 34, Patriots 27 on Jan. 3, 2010 at Reliant Stadium

Former offensive tackle Matt Light, who announced his retirement from the Patriots on May 7, 2012, closing an 11-year career in which he was one of the most productive players in the teams history, will be honored at halftime.

The are 21-22 all-time on Monday Night Football, including 14-5 under coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots are 10-8 in home Monday Night Football games and 11-14 on the road.

QB Tom Brady is 12-4 record on Monday Night Football. He has thrown three or more touchdowns in a Monday Night game eight times, including three four-touchdown performances, and has thrown four touchdowns in two of his last three Monday Night games.

The Patriots have won 12 consecutive regular-season December games, a streak that began with a win over the Panthers on Dec. 13, 2009. The Patriots are the fourth team in NFL history to win 12 consecutive regular-season games played in December. The Chargers hold the record, posting 18 consecutive regular-season wins in December from 2006-2009. The Patriots also had 12 straight December wins from 2006-08.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Bill Belichick (201) needs one more win to break a tie with Dan Reeves as the seventh-winningest NFL coach of all time.

With one touchdown pass against the Texans, Tom Brady will extend his streak to 45 straight games with at least one touchdown pass and continue his third-longest streak all time, behind Drew Brees (54) and Johnny Unitas (47).

Brady has 52 career 300-yard games in the regular season. He needs one more to break a tie with Kurt Warner for fifth place all time.

Brady (3,537) needs 463 passing yards to reach 4,000 yards for the fifth time and joinPeyton Manning (11),Dan Marino (6), Drew Brees (6) and Brett Favre (6) as the only players to have at least five seasons with 4,000 passing yards.

Stephen Gostkowski (7-of-10 from 50 or more yards) needs one more 50-yard field goal to tie Adam Vinatieri (8-of-17) for most 50-yard field goals in Patriots history. Gostkowski has two 50-yarders so far in 2012 and can become the first Patriots player with three 50-yard field goals in a single season.

Rob Ninkovich has a team-leading five forced fumbles, tying Mike Vrabel (2007) for the most forced fumbles for a Patriots player within the last 20 years.

If Stevan Ridley (9) gets one more touchdown, it will be the 13th time in Patriots history that a running back finished a season with 10 or more rushing touchdowns.

Ridley (9) and Rob Gronkowski (10) can both reach 10 touchdowns. It will be the third straight seasons and the fifth time in team history that the Patriots have had two players finish with 10 or more touchdowns in a season.

Wes Welker (17) needs one more 10-plus catch game to break a tie with Jerry Rice for the most 10-catch games in NFL history.

Welker (92) needs 8 receptions to become the first player in NFL history with five 100-catch seasons.

With one more victory the Patriots will secure their 10th straight season with at least 10 wins.

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him.