Patriots have varied plans for their time off

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Patriots have varied plans for their time off

FOXBORO -- With the bye week at hand, Patriots players have been afforded more time off than they've had all season. After today's practice, they won't have another until Tuesday of next week. For many, it's a chance to get away and decompress. For some others, it will be a chance to do extra work in preparation for the second half of the season.

Here are some of the things the Patriots have planned for their upcoming long weekend:

Tom Brady
Im not sure yet. I havent quite made any plans. Get a little rest, stay focused on what we have to do here and try to gear up for a really important next eight games of the year.

Stevan Ridley
I'll be down in Baton Rouge, watching the LSU-'Bama game, of course. I gotta get back and see my boys play and try to get this upset so I can come back and talk a little trash to Dont'a Hightower and Brandon Deaderick. I'll be right there in Baton Rouge . . . I'll probably be down on the sideline. Somewhere around. Not too far. I'm going down there to see my boys, man. I'm going back to see them and wish 'em luck. I'm with them out there on the field. I want them to get that win, like I said, so I can get back up here and talk a little bit . . . It's funny you get some time away and I'm going to another football game. I'm going back to my local high school game, then I'm gonna catch the LSU game, then I come on back. I'm leaving football to go to football. It's my life, man.

Steve Gregory
Right now getting healthy and being ready to play is the most important thing so I'll be around here . . . The season can be a grind. It's a long season. The bye week always comes, and it's good for guys to get away, get their mind off things a little bit. Even take a little trip, just get away from it for a little bit, but then get back, ready to play.

Tavon Wilson
I feel like a bye week is always good and I feel like ours came at the perfect time. Right in the middle of the season. I feel like it's perfect just to kind of relax, and kind of look at some things you've done wrong, some things you've done right and just try to build on those things . . . I'm definitely getting away. I'm gonna get away, relax a little bit and when I get back here next week then I'll be able to get ready for Buffalo.

Rob Ninkovich
I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to stay here, lay around, just kind of relax. Try and get myself back to feeling a little bit normal. Come next week, I'll be refreshed . . . You come in, get your lifts in, do the same things that you would do every other week. You just have a little bit more time to sleep in the morning so that you don't have to get up so early and so you don't have those long, 12-hour days . . . I'll probably sit down and watch some college games, the pro games as well. Obviously having the first chance to just kind of relax and watch a football game.

Brandon Spikes
Me personally, I'm still gonna be working. I wanna just be a professional. I wanna be the best at my position. I can't let a day get by. I'm definitely going to enjoy my family but at the same time, still trying to get the edge.

Bill Belichick
Well see how it goes. Right now were just trying to have a good day here today, take advantage of our day on the field with the players. We have some things that we definitely need to clean up after they leave going forward. Well just kind of take it day to day here and see how it goes.

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him.