Belichick, Pats look to gives selves chance for first-round bye


Belichick, Pats look to gives selves chance for first-round bye

FOXBORO -- So what does Sunday's regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins mean to Bill Belichick?

Somewhere between resting injured players and the Patriot Way lies a more important reward: a first-round playoff bye.

To get that first-round bye, the Patriots will need either a Houston Texans or a Denver Broncos loss on Sunday. But they'll also need to hold up their end of the bargain, with a win over Miami at Gillette Stadium.

When asked about resting players, Belichick expressed what Sunday's game means to him.

"There's nothing that we can do to help ourselves unless we beat Miami," said Belichick before Friday's practice. "There's nothing we can do to help our situation unless we win. So, we have to win for anything to happen positive. That's no guarantee that it will, but that's the first prerequisite, so we're operating under that premise. We've got to go out there and win. If we want things to be better, we have to help ourselves. And we have to win first. That's really what it's all about."

Belichick was then asked about the possibility of showing the rest of the league a little too much, and perhaps tipping off some things that they'll do in the playoffs, in the process.

Once again, Belichick said that he's going to do whatever it takes to win on Sunday, expressing the importance of Sunday's game against the Dolphins.

"I think that definitely would be a consideration if the game didn't mean anything, standings-wise," said Belichick. "Kind of like a preseason game. You're out there playing, but the game really doesn't count in the standings, it counts in your development as a team.

"But I think when you're in a situation like we are, where we need to win to improve, then it's worth winning to improve."

But to improve on what?

The Patriots -- with a 4:25 p.m. kickoff -- have tried to convince the media all week long that they won't be paying any attention to what happens in the Houston Texans' 1 p.m. game against the Indianapolis Colts. It's the "Patriot Way" to focus strictly on their next opponent, and their next opponent only.

But as previously stated, to get that first-round bye, they'll also need some help. If they get that help, they'll also need to help themselves.

Because Sunday's game against the Dolphins means more than just improvement. It means more than just resting players.

Even Belichick couldn't let his "Patriot Way" disguise the fact that it also means a potential first-round bye.

And yes, that is important to him.

"I mean, it's one less game you have to play, so, in this league at this time of year, you know you're playing a good team," said Belichick on what a first-round bye means to him. "So whoever you play, they're going to be good. So having to play one less game, I think there's some advantage to that, definitely."

Rask out of Bruins' must-win game vs. Islanders with 'lower body injury'

Rask out of Bruins' must-win game vs. Islanders with 'lower body injury'

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – In another body blow to the playoff chances for the Bruins, Tuukka Rask will be out tonight with what the B’s are calling a “lower body injury”  for their must-win game against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said that Rask came to the Bruins practice facility on Friday and got treatment on his lower body, but determined “he wouldn’t able to go” in Boston’s biggest game so far this season. Instead, backup Anton Khudobin will get the nod against the Isles. His last start was 10 days ago against the Calgary Flames, but he's a goalie who's also riding a four-game winning streak headed into a mega-important game for the Black and Gold, who have lost four in a row to damage their playoff hopes.

“He came in [on Friday] with some discomfort in the lower body, so he had some work done and didn’t feel like he’d be ready to go today,” said Cassidy of Rask after the Saturday morning skate in Brooklyn. “We had talked about getting Anton [Khudobin] in any way, and that was part of it. Those plans are always subject to change.

“So there’s no real surprise in that area, but we’re monitoring it really closely. We expect that he’ll be able to practice on Monday.”

There was no sign of injury for Rask in the 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Thurday night, in which he gave up five goals and looked shaky in the second and third period. Cassidy confirmed that Rask's equipment issue with his skate in the Lightning game had nothing to do with the injury. Rask was soft-voiced and trailed off in a couple of his answers while taking his share of responsibility following the Tampa loss and certainly seemed uncharacteristically downcast after that particular defeat.  

Rask’s surprise absence has a lot of parallels and a bit of the same feeling to the Bruins goaltender also being unable to play in last year’s regular season do-or-die finale where the Bruins dropped a brutal, pathetic 6-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators to knock them out of the playoff race.

One always wants to give a player the benefit of the doubt when an injury is involved, but one can’t escape the feeling that Boston’s No. 1 goalie should be able to play on Saturday in a must-win game, with so much on the line, if he’s expected to be healthy enough to practice a couple of days from now.

The Islanders and Bruins each have 82 points but the Bruins sit out of the playoff picture, in the ninth spot in the NHL's Eastern Conference, heading into tonight's showdown. 

Rookie Zane McIntyre has been called up on emergency recall to serve as Khudobin's backup vs. the Islanders. 


Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

NEW YORK - Joakim Noah of the New York Knicks has been suspended 20 games without pay for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.

The NBA announced the suspension Saturday, saying Noah tested positive for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033 – something that can be found in over-the-counter supplements.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first reported the suspension.

Noah has not played since Feb. 4 and was likely to miss the Knicks’ final 10 games this season because of a knee injury. The NBA said Noah’s suspension will begin with the ”first NBA regular season or playoff game for which he is eligible and physically able to play.”

Noah is in the first year of a four-year, $72 million contract. He and the Knicks (27-45) have been a disappointment this season. He averaged 5.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in 46 games this season, and has been limited to 75 games over the past two seasons.