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.

Gronkowski returns to practice; Mason, Branch still missing

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Gronkowski returns to practice; Mason, Branch still missing

FOXBORO -- The Patriots had a welcome face back on the practice field on Wednesday, as tight end Rob Gronkowski returned to action after missing the team's previous five practices as he dealt with an injury. 

Gronkowski participated in the warmup period of practice and then remained with the majority of his teammates for drills. 

The last time Gronkowski was spotted on the field was last Monday, which was the first of three joint practices between the Patriots and the Bears. He pulled up after pursuing a Tom Brady pass, walked along the sideline, met with head trainer Jim Whalen, and then left practice early. He did not suit up for Thursday's game against Chicago. 

Gronkowski has not participated in a preseason game since 2012. 

Patriots not spotted at Wednesday's practice were Shaq Mason, Jonathan Cooper, Sebastian Vollmer (on the physically unable to perform list) and Dion Lewis (also on PUP). Alan Branch, who has been suspended by the team before last week's preseason game, was also missing. 

Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, Malcolm Mitchell, Shea McClellin, Tre' Jackson (PUP) and Danny Amendola (PUP) were present for warmups but went to a lower field for conditioning. Amendola and Jackson were not in pads for the short-and-shells session. 

Jon Bon Jovi was taking in the session alongside Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. 

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

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Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

Hanley Ramirez is getting a night off as the Red Sox look for their third straight win against the Rays tonight at Tropicana Field.

Travis Shaw will play first base, with Brock Holt at third.

Tonight's lineups:

RED SOX:
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Brock Holt 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Andrew Benintendi LF
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Rick Porcello P

RAYS:
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller SH
Matt Duffy SS
Logan Morrison 1B
Steven Souza Jr. RF
Corey Dickerson LF
Bobby Wilson C
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Matt Andriese P