BOSTON -- The Bruins should hold some kind of competitive advantage with 12 members of their team playing overseas along with one expected roster player also coming from both the OHL (Dougie Hamilton) and AHL (Chris Bourque). Its the most players any NHL team had in Europe during the four-month lockout and that could be conducive to a quick start to the season.
But Bruins coach Claude Julien also observed that skaters like Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand who never went overseas like Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara are already catching up after just three days of official camp practices.
I think that the guys who didnt play, you can see improvement in every day. I find personally that its starting to level off pretty quickly, said Julien. What were going to have to be careful about obviously is the schedule part of it. Guys that are used to this every day on the ice -- and every second day playing -- can handle that.
Those guys who havent played, well have to see how they do in regards to that. Hopefully they do well, but right now I have no complaints. If anything Im pleasantly surprised at the pace and the sharpness in our hockey team.
Thats good news as many wondered whether a big-bodied player like Lucic, who didnt skate much at all in the months of November and December, would struggle badly coming out of the gate. It would appear all Bruins players are past that point, but the quick start could still bring on sore groins and balky hamstrings.
One NHL team has already lost a key player as David Booth blew out his hamstring while undergoing conditioning testing over the weekend, and will be lost to the Canucks for over a month. The Black and Gold arent out of the woods as far as injuries are concerned, and they could be killers during a shortened 48-game season.
But Juliens downright positive assessment of his players bodes well that everyone on the roster is ready to sprint out of the blocks this weekend.
BOSTON – Here are a few odds and ends to keep an eye on heading into tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings:
· The Celtics have won eight in a row over the Kings in Boston, with the last loss to Sacramento at the TD Garden coming on Jan. 19, 2007. Current Celtic Gerald Green was in the starting lineup that night.
· Only six times in franchise history have the Celtics launched 38 or more 3-pointers in a game, four of which came in the month of November this season.
· Speaking of 3-pointers, 36.2 percent of Boston’s shots are 3s. That ranks fifth in the league behind Houston, Cleveland, Brooklyn and Golden State.
· Don’t be surprised if Avery Bradley gets off to a good start tonight, especially from 3-point range. He’s shooting 59.1 percent on 3s in the first quarter which ranks second in the league.
· Isaiah Thomas tallied 395 points scored in November, the most by a Celtic since John Havlicek had 406 points in November during the 1971-1972 season.
· Boston leads the NBA in points scored (46.3 per game) by second-round picks. The Celtics’ second-round picks include Isaiah Thomas; Jae Crowder; Amir Johnson; Jonas Jerebko; Demetrius Jackson and Jordan Mickey.
· The Celtics are 5-0 this season when they outrebound an opponent.
· Tonight’s game will be Boston’s fifth set of back-to-back games this season. In the first game, they are 3-1 this season. On the second night, they are 2-2.
BOSTON – When it comes to defense, the Celtics are quick to claim that it is indeed the foundation for which their team is built upon.
Still, far too often this season, we have seen cracks in their usually Teflon-tough defense, the kind that ultimately means the difference between winning and losing.
The Celtics’ defense will once again need to step up and play well tonight against a Sacramento squad that has shown it can fill it up offensively of late.
Sacramento (7-11) has scored 100 or more points in eight of their past 10 games. In that span, their 107.2 points per game ranks ninth in the league.
In that same span, the Celtics have allowed opponents to score 100.3 points per game, which ranks 10th in the NBA in fewest points allowed.
And when it comes to winning, limiting teams to less than 100 points has been huge in Boston’s win total.
The Celtics have held eight opponents to 100 points or less this season.
Their record in those games? 8-0.
Within that limited scoring, Boston must also make sure teams don’t get into a nice groove shooting the ball.
Boston is 0-5 this season when an opponent shoots 48 percent or better from the field.
While there are several things Boston must do to be successful, having the right kind of defensive disposition ranks at or near the top of that list in their efforts to play with the kind of defensive success that gave so many hope that this would the year Boston would hold court among the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
“We have to get a little more nastier on the defensive end and not let a team come in and get comfortable,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder.