MacKinnon makes presence felt for P-Bruins

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MacKinnon makes presence felt for P-Bruins

PROVIDENCE, RI Kyle MacKinnon doesnt do much that will jump out at you on the ice.

Hes got good skating speed and a shot thats true when given the opportunity, but his skills arent flashy or dazzling. At 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds MacKinnon isnt going to stand out for his size or strength, which are both just about "average" for a professional hockey player.

While not having a dominant skill or asset, MacKinnon is the kind of guy that does everything well and showcased that with the overtime game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory over the Adirondack Phantoms on Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin Donuts Center. The center gave the appropriate celebratory fist pump on one knee once the game was decided, and with good reason.  

I havent scored a game-winning goal like that in a whileprobably since junior hockey, said MacKinnon. So I was pretty excited.

The fourth-line Providence forward was able to finish off a sweet Matt Bartkowski pass from behind the net for the game-winner, and has earned the trust of the coaching staff to be on the ice four-on-four in the overtime session.

Were a little like the parent club in Boston where we rely on all 12 forwards and all four lines, said P-Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. Last year he had a quiet 14 goals for us as a rookie, which is pretty good in this league. He can kill penalties and if you need a guy to fill in on the power play he can make a play.

Hes very responsible and hes decent on draws. Theres a lot to like about him as a coach because hes really responsible. Were in so many close games that you need players like that.

The game-winner capped off a solid weekend for MacKinnon, who crammed all three of his goals this season into this past weekend. He snapped off a pair of strikes against the Manchester Monarchs on Friday night and tallied the overtime winner on Sunday, and has managed to make an impact with the limited ice time. Thats part of MacKinnons lot in life, and hes accepted that fully.

You have certain roles on the team: certain guys do certain things, said MacKinnon. I take a lot of pride in my defense. But whenever the coach calls on me to play penalty kill or puts me out there in crunch time situations, youve got to be ready. I was ready when my number was called and I was able to capitalize on it.

Perhaps it shouldnt be a surprise that MacKinnon is a nice fit with the P-Bruins after he put together a solid four-year career in Hockey East with the Providence College Friars. The Rhode Island capital city is like a second home to the California native after he put up 37 goals during his collegiate career, and he just keeps on getting better with the Bruins organization.

Things started slowly for the 25-year-old this season, but this weekends performance showed he can keep improving on the quiet 14 goal AHL season he put up last year as a rookie for the P-Bruins. MacKinnon is too old to be a prospect and was probably never flashy enough to qualify in the first place, but theres always a place in pro hockey for maximum effort guys that seem to get better all the time.

MacKinnon certainly qualifies as that, and the Providence Bruins wouldnt have enjoyed a perfect six-point weekend without him.

Chara probable vs. Panthers, Beleskey misses morning skate

Chara probable vs. Panthers, Beleskey misses morning skate

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- There were both expected and unexpected absences from Bruins morning skate on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of tonight’s game at TD Garden against the Florida Panthers. Matt Beleskey was the expected absence after getting knocked out of Saturday’s game with a lower body injury caused by a Tyler Fedun check to his right leg, and Torey Krug was also missing from the ice after pulling workhorse duty over the last handful of games in the absence of Zdeno Chara.

Following practice Claude Julien confirmed that Chara was “probable” to return for tonight’s game vs. the Florida Panthers after missing the last six games, and that Krug is expected to play after succumbing to the same illness that felled Patrice Bergeron over the weekend. Beleskey was being checked by doctors on Monday, and it sounds like his absence might be a bit longer term than simply a “day-to-day” lower body injury. 

Noel Acciari took part in practice, and it appears they both could be closing in on a return to the lineup. Frank Vatrano also shot the puck around a bit at the very beginning of Monday’s skate, but came off the ice as the team began their preparations for tonight’s game. 

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings vs. Florida based on the morning skate with Beleskey and Krug both absent:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Schaller-Krejci-Backes

Spooner-Nash-Czarnik

Blidh-Moore-Hayes/Acciari

Chara-Carlo

Morrow-McQuaid

K. Miller-C. Miller

Rask

Khudobin

Belichick on keeping Brady in: 'Seen those double-digit leads evaporate'

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Belichick on keeping Brady in: 'Seen those double-digit leads evaporate'

With 5:52 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game between the Patriots and Rams, and with the hosts up 26-3, quarterback Tom Brady was back on the field to lead the Patriots offense. 

It was a decision that had some scratching their heads. Why risk the health of your Hall of Fame quarterback in a game that's essentially been decided? Particularly at this point in the year? Particularly just days after the team lost it's most dynamic offensive weapon to season-ending back surgery?

"Well, after the game turns out, it's easy to go back and make those suggestions," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on a conference call Monday. "I've seen a few games in this league. Seen those double-digit leads evaporate in a minute or two. I know that's not a big concern when it does happen and then when it does happen it's a major crisis and [there's] a lot of second-guessing about what should've been done or what shouldn't have been done. Trying to win the game."

The Patriots held the ball for a little over two minutes before punting it back to the Rams. By the time the Patriots got the ball back for the final time with 1:15 remaining, Brady was on the field to take two kneeldowns and wipe out the clock. 

He told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Monday morning that he wasn't looking for an early hook. The Rams have been accused of dirty plays in the past, and their coaching staff has a reputation for encouraging a reckless style, but Brady explained why he wanted to remain in the game late.

"All these games are close. I know yesterday, 26-3 at one point, but we’re playing for a lot here," he said. "i don’t think it’s ever right to take your foot off the gas pedal. We could use as many reps as possible, all the guys out there. There are different situations that come up in every game. You only get 16 weeks a year to try them out. You try them in practice, but there’s not the speed. There’s not the urgency. It’s not the decision-making because it’s unscripted.

"In practice you go and talk about these are the plays you’re going to run, these are the defenses you can get. Then you go into the game and they it’s all about decision-making really under pressure with everything on the line, so the more reps you can get with Malcolm [Mitchell] and [Chris] Hogan and Martellus [Bennett], guys that I haven’t played with, the better it gets."

Brady escaped his late-game reps no worse for the wear -- he completed three of four passes for 14 yards on his team's second-to-last drive -- but he did take one shot earlier in the game that had him ticked. Rams safety TJ McDonald got into the Patriots backfield untouched and drove Brady into the ground during a second-quarter drive. Brady got the ball away, but he was walloped, and when he got up he sought out McDonald for a few words.

"I think it was pretty emotional," Brady told Kirk and Callahan. "I didn’t see the replay yet, but he made a good clean hit. They were blitzing us. I knew we didn’t have him picked up and he put a little extra something on.”

Asked if the threat of a play like that late in a lopsided game bothered him, Brady said no.

"I said to my wife as I was driving home, she was like, ‘What was that?’ She wants to know about all these things and I was like, ‘I think it is all fair on the football field.’ You put yourself out there," Brady explained. "You’re up 20, you’re down 20. Everyone is playing hard and whatever happens out there is on the football field. I don’t think it was a dirty play.

"Guys love going in there and hitting the quarterback. They’ve been trained to hit the quarterback their entire careers, especially on defense. They get paid more hitting the quarterback. Their team is 4-8 so they are going to play hard 'til the end no matter what. They haven’t been in a lot of games this year so they are going to play hard to try and set them up for next year. I had no problem with that hit. I thought it was a real clean play. I was pretty pissed off for the most part yesterday because we weren’t executing as well as we could and that probably had something to do with it as well."