Bad blood lingers between B's and Stars

626524.jpg

Bad blood lingers between B's and Stars

GLENDALE, AZ. --- It goes without saying that a game between the Bruins and
Dallas Stars has become synonymous with fireworks and fisticuffs.

Three years ago, an early season meeting of the B's and Stars at TD Garden turned into
an all-our war against Sean Avery and Steve Ott. The hate-filled 60 minutes also featured Shane Hnidys most memorable moment as a Bs player as he tuned up Matti
Niskanen during a line brawl on the ice, and Marc Savard throwing punches at Avery in
defense of a young Milan Lucic.

That game really ushered in the Bs current team personality as a club not to be
trifled with, and handed the current cast of Bruins players their first evidence that dialing
up the physicality brings out the best in them.

Last season, when the B's were accused in some circles of notplaying with enough heart, toughness or chutzpah, they engaged in three fights withinthe first four seconds of a game against the Stars.

Gregory Campbell and Ott -- who had taken a run at Campbell during Campbell's days with the Florida Panthers -- renewed pleasantries, but it didnt stop there.

Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves with Krys Barch and busted up the then-Dallas
enforcers face with a punishing right hand. And Adam McQuaid crushed Brian
Sutherby in the third bout.

Andrew Ference and Adam Burish followed up with another fight four minutes
later, and once again the Bruins and Stars had renewed a unique bad blood relationship.

Its rare that kind of hatred crosses over to the opposite conference, but thats what has
happened in Dallas and Boston.

It doesnt seem to matter that the two teams only play once a season, and the expectation
is Saturday night could be another bloodbath.

Another ode to Slap Shot is not what Claude Julien is thinking, however.

With some of the old Stars players no longer in Dallas and new coach Glenn Gulutzan
in place, the Bs coach doesnt think the Stars will be pulling any shenanigans. But then
again the Stars still have the agitating Ott on their roster, and wont be shying away from
things should they get a little nasty on the ice.

It doesnt matter. They have a different coach and different players, and they probably
have a different approach, said Julien. Were going to go in there and play our game.

"And what youve seen over the years is that whatever they throw at us, were going to be
ready for.

The other factor in this years BruinsStars matchup: it will be Michael Ryders first
game against his former team. Ryder leads the Stars with 14 goals scored this season
and has been reunited with his old buddy from Montreal, Mike Ribeiro, in Dallas. The
reunion has brought the best out of both players, and theres also Ryders history of
playing well against his former team, the Habs, during his years in Boston.

In other words, a highly talented player that sometimes struggles to maintain focus and
motivation gets up for games against former teams. There should be a little extra for
Ryder against a Bruins team that didnt bring him back after he helped win a Cup in
Boston.

Hes a good man and hes having some success playing with his old liney Mike
Ribeiro, said Thornton, who formed a solid friendship with Ryder during their
time in Boston. He was a good guy, good teammates and obviously he helped us get a
ring so Im happy for him having some success there.

But certainly not too much success for Ryder against the Bruins on Saturday night if
Thornton has his way

Belichick discusses risk of exposing players to waiver claims

patriots_dj_foster_082616.jpg

Belichick discusses risk of exposing players to waiver claims

Bill Belichick knows the data. Knows the risk involved in exposing a player to a waiver claim at this time of the year and long ago came to the uneasy truce that you can’t keep ‘em all and somebody else might snag ‘em.

This summer, the Patriots don’t have a mass of easy releases, especially among their rookies and first-year players.

There are a lot of very intriguing players who’ve looked good either in practices, games or both. Good enough to make the Pats think twice about whether they want to leave them exposed.

Top of mind for me there are corners Jonathan Jones and Cre’Von LeBlanc, linebacker Elandon Roberts, wide receiver DeAndre Carter, defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton and running back D.J. Foster who appear to be right on the roster bubble but are impressive.

“It’s something you take into consideration, it’s a hard thing to predict,” Belichick said when asked about weighing the risk of a released player the Patriots would like to re-sign to their practice squad getting claimed. “There’s going to be, I don’t know, certainly going to be a lot of players, probably over 1,000 players that will be exposed to waivers in the next eight calendar days or whatever it’ll be. I think the average claim is somewhere in the high 20s there…so that’s what the odds are. We’ve had years where we haven’t had any of our players claimed and we’ve had years where we’ve had multiple players claimed. I think at the end you just have to do what you think is best for your team.”

Belichick has given us terrific insight this week into how he and Nick Caserio strategize their roster decisions. When asked about the team’s releases in advance of the cutdown deadlines, Belichick mentioned the team wanted to have the ability to accommodate new players who may come available.

Enter the Barkevious.

He also got into projecting young players against established performance levels of veterans and weighing current contributions against future ones.

"That’s the $64,000 question," Belichick said on Tuesday. "That’s what it is. It’s been like that since the day I got into this league. From all of the personnel meetings I’ve ever been in it’s a [matter of] a player who’s more experienced [and] more ready to help the team now, versus a player that’s not as ready now but at some point you think the pendulum will swing in his favor. Will you do that? Can you do that? What are the consequences of making that move? What are the consequences of not making that move? How likely, as you said, is it that you could keep both players in some capacity?

"That’s what it’s about, trying to balance now with later. We’re going to field a team in November, we’re going to field a team next year, we’re going to field a team in 2018. Not that we’re getting too far ahead of ourselves, but we’re going to be in business in those years, so we have to sort of have an eye on those moving forward and a lot of the other factors that go into that. Those are all tough decisions. They’re all things that you really have to think about."

As is the risk of having a player scooped.

“It’s pretty hard to predict what’s going to happen when you put players on the wire because in all honesty, you don’t know what the other [31] teams are going to do and who they’re going to put on the wire,” Belichick explained. “Even though you put a player out there that you don’t want to lose, if another team happens to put a player out there that may be a team that needs that position and would be better with your player, your player gets claimed. Sometimes we waive players that we didn’t think would get claimed and they were, so that’s really hard to predict.

“In the end, you’ve got to make the decision that you feel like is best for your football team, and if you really want that player and you just can’t bear to live without them, then you shouldn’t be exposing them to the wire,” he concluded. “That’s the reality of it. We keep an eye on them, but I don’t think it’s an overriding factor. If you’re prepared to waive them, then you’ve got to be prepared to lose them. That’s just the way it is.”

Belichick considering using Jones as the No. 1 punt returner

new-england-patriots-cyrus-jones-panthers-082716.jpg

Belichick considering using Jones as the No. 1 punt returner

Back in May, when the Patriots drafted Cyrus Jones in the second round, Patriots director of player personel Nick Caserio made it very clear: Jones' ability to return punts is what made him their favorite player available at pick No. 60.

"I think the thing that tipped the scales in Cyrus’ favor a little bit," Caserio said at the time, "was his overall versatility -- punt return -- that’s a huge component of what we do and we thought he had the ability."

Jones broke out with a 60-yard return on Friday against the Panthers, flashing the kind of explosion in the kicking game that the Patriots anticipated when they made him their first selection this year. 

Though Jones has admitted he has had his share of issues securing the football during punt-return periods in practice, he has not dropped a punt in a preseason game. And in a conference call on Saturday, Bill Belichick acknowledged that Jones could be the team's primary punt returner in Week 1 even though the team employs two accomplished players who have performed that well in the past. 

"Yeah, I think that’s a consideration," Belichick said of using Jones as the No. 1 returner. "Obviously, Danny [Amendola] and Julian [Edelman] have a lot of experience returning punts for us as well as kickoffs in the past. We’ll see how it goes, but we have good depth at that position and that’s always a good thing to have.

"We have confidence in all of those guys back there. Last night we even had D.J. [Foster] who got a chance to handle the ball. We’ll see how it goes going forward, but I think we have good competition and good depth at that position."

Saving Edelman and Amendola from further wear-and-tear could help extend the careers of both 30-year-old receivers. Not long after Jones was drafted, we took a look at how many hits Edelman and/or Amendola could be saved on a weekly basis by using Jones in the kicking game.

Belichick: Patriots play to win in preseason...kind of

new-england-patriots-bill-belichick-tablet.jpg

Belichick: Patriots play to win in preseason...kind of

When you check out the Patriots-Panthers game notes on Patriots.com, the lead bullet point is one of the least interesting: "The New England Patriots are off to a 3-0 start in the preseason for the sixth time in team history . . . and for the second time under Bill Belichick."

Belichick and the Patriots went undefeated in preseason play back in 2003. One of the best teams in Patriots history, that group went on to win the franchise's second Super Bowl in three years. 

It's the preseason, though, so who cares about wins and losses? Well, Belichick does. During a conference call on Saturday he was asked if it was a big deal for him and his team to be winning these preseason games, and he responded by explaining his approach to exhibition football.

"I think what we tell our players and coaches is that we’re going to coach and play to win," he said. "We’re obviously not going to pull out all the stops in terms of every trick play we’ve ever used or things like that, but whatever the situation calls for, we’re going to play it as competitively as we can play it given the limitations that we have and based on the amount of experience our players have in the game at that certain point and what we’ve been able to cover."

It makes sense. Obviously teams don't want to reveal any surprise sets they may have saved for the regular season. And coaches aren't going to get exotic with their defensive calls or their offensive formations at this time of year. What basic plays they do run, however, they would like to execute successfully.

They want to win the fight, but they're going to try to do it with their jab and straight right. The combinations and the counters will have to wait.

"We haven’t covered every single thing that we would want to cover or hope to cover to start the season, especially situational football," Belichick added. "But as far as competing and playing, we’re doing everything we can to win., but within the context of doing what we’re capable of doing right now. We’re trying to win, we’re trying to do everything as well as we can do it, but not pulling out all the stops in terms of playing time, strategizing and so forth that we would do in the regular season."