Pandolfo looking for hockey career to come full circle with Bruins

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Pandolfo looking for hockey career to come full circle with Bruins

WILMINGTON, MA You cant beat the commute to work these days if youre Jay Pandolfo.

The Burlington High legend owns a home in Winchester with his wife and two children, and is shuttling back and forth between the TD Garden and Wilmingtons Ristuccia Arena while on a training camp tryout with the hometown Boston Bruins. Its obviously a dream-come-true scenario for Pandolfo after growing up a Bruins fan before starring at Boston University and winning a pair of Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils.

If I get a chance to play with the Bruins it will probably be killing penalties in a bottom-six forward role and adding some depth, said Pandolfo. Its been great in camp. Being a kid growing up here and being a huge fan of the Bruins its great just to wear the Bs sweater. Whatever happens, either way it is just great.

Even talking to Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau when they came in here last year, they really enjoyed their time in Boston. You know its a great group of guys, its a great organization and they have a great chance to win another Cup this season. So well see what happens.

But the 38-year-old Pandolfo can still help an NHL hockey club, and simply wanted a chance to prove it coming out of the 119-day lockout. If the 2012-13 NHL season had been cancelled the chances are very good that Pandolfo would have called it a career, and the likelihood remains that this season might be his last go-round. But theres also a belief among the Bs brass that Pandolfos strengths penalty killing, shot-blocking and defensive forward play are exactly the kind of things that would mesh nicely with the current cast of Bruins forward personnel.

He also skated with players like Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Daniel Paille during the NHL lockout as well as in summers past and has a good feel for this Bruins club on and off the ice.

Theyve always been a great group of guys and I was always very comfortable playing for Claude in New Jersey, said Pandolfo.

That Claude is Claude Julien, of course, who fondly remembers his days coaching Pandolfo in New Jersey, when he teamed with John Madden as a pair of PK demons that played a big role in the Devils rise to Cup glory.

He was a really good player and I always thought he was by far our best penalty killer in New Jersey, said Julien. The one thing Ive always said about him is that hes never received the credit he deserves. You have guys that are unsung heroes and he was certainly one of those guys.

Thats from before I even got to New Jersey. They had that tandem of Madden and Pandolfo, but Pando to me was a smart guy that was making really good decisions on that PK until. You saw that even today. Hes not afraid to block shots and has some really good qualities. Not only that but hes really a class act, and to have him on a tryout is something we unanimously agreed on.

It may come down to a simple numbers game for Pandolfo, who had similar tryout offers from a handful of NHL clubs. But in a short 48-game abbreviated season where the Bruins will be playing every other day in the months of March and April, each NHL club will need a heady veteran capable of remaining effective in spot duty.

That could be exactly the right kind of role for Pandolfo in Black and Gold as his hockey career comes full circle to where it began as a hockey star for the Red Devils and Terriers in the high school and college ranks respectively.

Injury report: Amendola out for Ravens game, Bennett questionable

Injury report: Amendola out for Ravens game, Bennett questionable

Wide receiver Danny Amendola was officially listed as out on the injury report for the Patriots' Monday night home game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Amendola injured his ankle on a punt return against the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday. It will be the first game he's missed this season. The Patriots signed veteran wide receiver and kick returner Griff Whalen during the week.

Tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle, shoulder) is among the Pats listed as questionable, along with special teams ace Matt Slater (foot), who missed the Rams game, safety Jordan Richards (knee), linebacker Elandon Roberts (hamstring) and cornerback Eric Rowe (hamstring).

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

FOXBORO – Griff Whalen was at the epicenter of one of the stupidest, funniest, most “did that just happen?!” plays in NFL history.

So indescribable it never even really earned a name, it was the fourth-down gadget play the Colts tried to run against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football in the first meeting between the teams after Indy ran to the principal’s office to start Deflategate. 

Whalen was the center on that play (I tried to call it “Fourth-and-Wrong” but it didn’t take) and the millisecond between him snapping the ball and the three players processing that the ball had indeed been snapped is perhaps my favorite moment of the past several seasons. 

Whalen is a Patriot now, brought in this week in the wake of Danny Amendola’s knee injury presumably to fill Amendola’s role as a punt returner and wideout. The Colts released him last January, the Dolphins picked him up and cut him at the end of training camp and the Chargers had him on their roster from mid-September until releasing him last month after eight games, two catches and 22 yards. He returned kickoffs for San Diego but no punts since 2015.

The primary area of need for the Patriots is on punt returns. Rookie Cyrus Jones’ transition to appearing comfortable remains glacially slow. It was Jones’ muff last week that brought on Amendola in relief. When Amendola hurt his ankle on a late-game return, the Patriots were forced to decide between Jones, wideout Julian Edelman (who doesn’t need extra work) and making a move.

Whalen is a move they made.

The slight and baby-faced Whalen indicated he had fielded some punts in practice, saying it went, “Fine.” Punt returns are something he’s done “since I was a kid.”

His first impression of the team was, "A lot of what I expected to see. A lot of detail. A lot of effort in practice. Good coaching all-around. I am excited to be here. I was excited to come into a good team that I’d gone against a few times. Hopefully come in and help out the team with whatever I can.”

I asked Whalen if he saw much of the commentary or creativity last year’s failed play spawned.

“I wasn’t paying too much attention,” he said. “When it’s during the season guys are pretty locked in on what they’re doing inside the building. But I heard more about it later on afterwards.”

Asked if he’d heard anything about the play since being here, Whalen replied, “I haven’t. Kinda was [expecting it].”

The Patriots will be hoping Whalen remains as productive for them on fourth down this year as he was in 2015.