Johnson skates in first practice with the Bruins

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Johnson skates in first practice with the Bruins

Aaron Johnson admits that he didnt really have much of a connection to Boston or the Bruins organization when he signed with the team over the summer.
The 29-year-old has bounced between the Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Islanders over the last nine years, but seemed to finally found a home in Columbus last season. Johnson put up a career-high 16 points in 56 games taking defenseman shifts with the Blue Jackets last year, but didnt hesitate to sign on the dotted line when a perennial Cup contender like the Bruins expressed some interest.
The history speaks for itself here. As long as they expressed interest it was pretty much close the door and sign the contract, said Johnson. When a team like this comes along you just want to be a part of it.
Ive been in the league for nine years, so its trying to bring a little experience while playing well defensively. Hopefully I can chip in offensively every once in a while, but my game is playing good defensive hockey.
The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Johnson skated with his Bruins teammates for the first time on Thursday at Ristuccia Arena, but officially became a member of the team when he met up with his teammates for a group dinner on Wednesday night. Johnson originally signed on with the understanding that he might be a depth defenseman vying with rookie Dougie Hamilton for a spot among the top six.
But with Adam McQuaids blood clot scare in September, theres a good chance Johnson could be in the Bruins' opening lineup on Jan. 19. 
McQuaid is gaining strength and putting back the weight lost away from the weight room for a two-month period following surgery, but may not be ready for full duty when NHL training camp opens.
Johnson is preparing to jump right into the lineup, and will need to get comfortable quickly with a week-long training camp planned.
Im just trying to take it day-by-day. We did a pretty good job of skating every day in Dallas and just doing the best that we could, said Johnson. Hopefully now we go out and have a good camp. There will be a lot of adrenaline and guys excited to play, so Im sure there will be a few missed passes and guys falling down. Its all part of it as long as were ready when the puck drops.
Johnson and his Bruins teammates wont have much choice because little more than a week from now theyll be readying to ride a 48-game regular season roller coaster that wont stop until June.

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

BOSTON -- Compared to most high draft picks, Jaylen Brown doesn’t log a ton of minutes for the Boston Celtics.
 
Playing on an experienced team with legit hopes of making a deep playoff run, rookies seeing limited minutes is a given.
 
Knowing playing time will come in a limited supply, Brown understands all too well the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity he gets on the floor.
 
He did just that on Saturday in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia, and he hopes to do more of the same on Monday when the Celtics take on the Houston Rockets.
 
When you look at Brown’s stat line, nothing about it looks impressive. He played 15 minutes, scored two points with one rebound and one blocked shot.
 
But beyond the stats was the fact that he was on the floor for seven minutes in the fourth quarter in a close back-and-forth game on the road. Rookies on the floor in crunch time is not the norm in the NBA.
 
“It means a lot,” Brown told reporters after Saturday’s win. “I try to be as best I can be for my team; try to put my best foot forward every night out.”
 
And he did just that on Saturday.
 
In the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading 87-83, Brown blocked a Gerald Henderson shot that wound up in the hands of Jae Crowder. Moments later, Jonas Jerebko hit a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics their largest lead of the game, 90-83.
 
And just two minutes prior to the blocked shot, he was out in transition following an Isaiah Thomas steal and threw down a dunk that pushed Boston’s lead to 86-83 with 7:11 to play.
 
Brown acknowledged making the most of those opportunities bodes well for him and the franchise.
 
“It’s great for our team in general; not just for me,” Brown said. “Those plays helped us to pull the game out in the end. So I’m glad we got the win. I think we should have played a little better than we did.”
 
The continued pursuit of self-improvement is a hallmark of what Brown’s focus and desire are at this stage of his pro career. He has talked often about not wanting to be just one of the best in this draft class but also one of the best in the NBA overall.
 
But he’s also learned that to get there takes time and experience developing both physically and mentally. Part of that mental growth entails having the right approach to games.
 
“Usually you try to tell yourself not to mess up,” Brown said. “Now that I’m getting more comfortable, it’s just play basketball, bring energy, things like that; come out and do what you’re supposed to do. A lot of times you try to tell yourself to not mess up and it’s counteractive; just come out and play basketball and have fun.”
 
And by doing so the minutes will come.
 
“You can’t control that. I just have to control what I can control,” Brown said. “I trust coach (Brad Stevens); I trust my coaching staff. I have to come out and in the minutes I get, play my hand as best I can and take advantage of what I do get and impact this team as much as possible.”
 
This season, Brown is averaging 4.8 points, 2.0 rebounds while shooting 41.9 percent from the field.

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Scott Zolak said on Pregame Live Sunday that the Patriots are better-suited to survive a season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski than they were a season ago. 

Zolak said that given the health of Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and the signing of Chris Hogan, the offense has more stability at other positions to make up for the loss of Gronkowski, whose season is over due to back surgery. As for the tight end position, Zolak said he feels the Patriots traded for Martellus Bennett to protect themselves against scenarios like the one they currently face. 

“This offseason they [acquired] Martellus Bennett, I think for this very reason: to prepare for what really happens year after year, is some sort of issue comes up with Rob Gronkowski and you have to play without him,” Zolak said.

Bennett was questionable with an ankle injury for this week’s game, but is expected to play. Asked about the health of Bennett, Zolak said that he believes the tight end is good to play, but that his importance to the team with Gronkowski out means the Pats will need to be careful. 

“I think he’s healthy enough to get through about 30-35 snaps,” Zolak said. “They’ve got to balance him now moving forward.”