From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- All-Star Blake Griffin said Tuesday his left knee is healed after last month's surgery that forced him to miss the London Olympics, when he worked on his shot and free throws while his U.S. teammates were winning a gold medal.Griffin is doing drills and running this week as he continues rehabbing from the July 16 surgery to repair a medial meniscus tear of his knee that he suffered during practice with the U.S. national team in Las Vegas."I'm doing all my normal movements," he said. "I feel like I'm at 100 percent."The latest knee injury had nothing to do with the stress fracture of his left patella and surgery that forced him to miss the 2009-10 season.It's been a busy summer for Griffin. In addition to being with the national team until his injury and then his surgery, he signed a five-year contract extension in July that could be worth up to 95 million.After he got hurt, Griffin didn't watch any of the team's exhibition games, calling it "a little too fresh and a little too painful."But once the Olympics began, he watched his former U.S. teammates during their run to the gold medal."It was just good to see those guys get what they deserved and see how hard everybody worked from the time we got together to the end," he said.Griffin used his downtime "trying to become a more complete player, working on my shot and working on free throws," he said. "Those are two things that I was able to work on a lot even if it was stationary."The Clippers kept busy this summer, re-signing Chauncey Billups and bringing Lamar Odom back to the franchise in a deal with Dallas. They also landed free agents Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Willie Green, Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins."This is a great place to play and guys want to come here," Griffin said. "The fact that we've had guys toward the end of their careers, guys like Grant Hill, that chose to play here, I think that says a lot about our team and the direction we're heading in. It's great to be a part of something that has kind of turned the corner."Last season the Clippers got swept by San Antonio in four games in the second round of the playoffs after having the best regular-season winning percentage in franchise history."We laid the foundation," Griffin said. "This year we want to take a step forward and I think the pieces that we've added, the guys we have returning and the work guys have put in this offseason has been tremendous. We look to take that next step as a franchise."The Clippers' co-tenant at Staples Center pulled off its own big deals, adding Steve Nash from Phoenix and Dwight Howard from Orlando."It's great for LA, it's great for basketball," Griffin said. "It's going to bring a lot of excitement, but they still have to play just like everybody else."Griffin said he spoke on Monday to gold medal-winning teammate Chris Paul, who plans to return to Los Angeles next week to recuperate from the surgery he had last week to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.Griffin endorsed Gary Sacks, the Clippers' director of player personnel, to replace Neil Olshey as the team's general manager. Olshey left to take on the same role in Portland."If he doesn't get the GM job I'll be shocked and definitely a little disappointed because he deserves it and I think everybody else thinks he deserves it," Griffin said. "I hope that it's going to be him."Griffin interacted with fans during an appearance at a West Los Angeles Subway restaurant, where he assembled a turkey sandwich and helped give away prizes to mark the chain's 47th anniversary.
BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.
But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.
The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.
“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.
“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”
Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that.
BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.
Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.
But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.
“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.
“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”
But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.
But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.
Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.
Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.
“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”
The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.
Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.