Hernandez (ankle) 'feeling pretty good' on Monday

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Hernandez (ankle) 'feeling pretty good' on Monday

FOXBORO -- With Rob Gronkowski expected to be out for an extended period of time with a broken forearm, all eyes are on fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez, who hasn't played since Week 7 against the Jets.

Hernandez is still battling an ankle injury which he suffered in the first quarter of a Week 2 loss to Arizona, forcing him to miss the next three games. But after returning for Week 6 in Seattle and Week 7 against the Jets, Hernandez hasn't suited up on Sunday.

Now that Gronkowski is out, the spotlight will be on Hernandez to see if he can be ready for Thursday night's game in New York.

"I'm feeling pretty good," said Hernandez inside the Patriots locker room on Monday night.

The Patriots did not practice on Monday, but Hernandez was listed as "limited" in a hypothetical practice report that, per NFL rules, must be released.

When asked if he would be ready to play on Thursday, Hernandez said, "We'll see."

He wasn't giving away much on Monday, and why would he? Hernandez spoke like a Patriot who knows exactly what has to happen next, if New England wants to have success.

They need to move on.

"Everyone has to step up and make plays, and follow the game plan," said Hernandez. "I'm sure we'll be alright.

"Obviously it's tough. Obviously he's one of the best players in the league. But, we have a lot of players, and everyone has to step up to fill the void. It puts pressure on everybody. Not just one player can just replace him. Everyone has to step up."

Doing so, is exactly what Bill Belichick has trained his players for. Be ready when you're called upon.

"The way this program is, the way Bill makes us become the players we become, we all have confidence and we all know we have to come to play every game, regardless," said Hernandez. "And in the NFL, people go down and other people have to step up.

"It'll change some things. Like I said, everyone will have to step up and whatever the change is, we have to make plays and fill that void we'll be missing."

As for whether the Patriots will be still missing Hernandez on Thursday night, is another question altogether.

"It's tough to watch," he said. "But hopefully I get back soon and help them out."

Penguins edge Sharks 3-2 in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

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Penguins edge Sharks 3-2 in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

PITTSBURGH - Nick Bonino's main job for the Pittsburgh Penguins is to get to the front of the net and create chaos. The well-bearded forward executed perfectly in his debut in the Stanley Cup Final.

Bonino took a pretty feed from the corner by Kris Letang and beat Martin Jones from in close with 2:33 remaining to lift the Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 on Monday night.

Rookies Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary staked Pittsburgh to an early two-goal lead before the Sharks tied it in the second period on goals by Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau. The Penguins responded by upping the pressure in the final period and it paid off with Bonino's fourth goal of the playoffs after he darted to the San Jose net in time to knuckle Letang's pass by Jones for the winner.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Matt Murray finished with 24 saves for Pittsburgh, which began its bid for the fourth title in franchise history by peppering Jones constantly in the first and final periods. Jones made 38 stops but couldn't get his blocker on Bonino's wrist shot. The Penguins threw 41 shots at Jones, well over the 28 he faced on average during San Jose's playoff run.

The Sharks made it to the first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history by rebuilding themselves on the fly. Two years removed from a brutal collapse from a 3-0 series lead in the first round against Los Angeles, San Jose ended a 9,005 day wait to play in the NHL's championship round by relying on a tough, aggressive style that squeezes opponents with a relentless forecheck while limiting chances in front of Jones.

Yet veterans Marleau and Joe Thornton - the top two picks in the 1997 draft held in Pittsburgh who had waited nearly two decades to make it to the league's biggest stage - insisted the Sharks were hardly satisfied after dispatching St. Louis in a cathartic Western Conference finals.

Maybe, but the Sharks looked a step slow - maybe two steps slow - while searching for their footing against the Penguins, who rallied from a 3-2 deficit to edge the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games to advance to their first Cup Final since 2009.

Rust, who surprisingly made the team out of training camp and became an unlikely playoff star by scoring both of Pittsburgh's goals in Game 7 against the Lightning, gave the Penguins the lead 12:46 into the first when he slammed home a rebound off a Justin Schultz shot for his sixth of the postseason, a franchise record for playoff goals by a rookie.

Less than a minute later Sheary, who didn't become a regular until the middle of January, made it 2-0 when Sidney Crosby whipped a blind backhand cross-ice pass to Sheary's stick. The rookie's wrist shot from the right circle zipped by Jones and the Penguins appeared to be in complete command by overwhelming the Sharks in a way few have in months.

San Jose and its group of Cup newcomers regained its composure in the intermission and responded with a big surge. Hertl jammed a shot from just outside the crease between Murray's legs on the power play 3:02 into the second to give the Sharks momentum. Late in the second, Marleau collected a rebound off a Brent Burns one-timer behind the Pittsburgh net and then beat Murray on a wraparound to the far post that caromed off Murray's extended right leg and into the net.