Bergeron 'close', could play vs. Bolts

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Bergeron 'close', could play vs. Bolts

TAMPA It looks like the sky isnt falling for the Boston Bruins after all.

After a few days with many around the Bs organization holding their collective breath, Patrice Bergeron was back out on the ice for Tuesday's morning skate at the Tampa Times Forum.

Many had anticipated the worst when No. 37 took a Matti Niskanen rocket off the left knee in the second period of Sundays loss to the Penguins. Bergeron failed to return to that days lineup despite repeated valiant attempts.

But Bergeron said he was hopeful that hell be able to play Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he looked perfectly ready to play, centering Brad Marchand and Jordan Caron during line rushes at morning skate. Bruins coach Claude Julien wasnt ready to pronounce Bergeron in the lineup, but he indicated that hes in the mix as a game-time decision.

Thats good news for a Bruins team that needed to call up AHL insurance policy Trent Whitfield on Monday morning just in case Bergeron couldnt answer the bell, but once again the centers toughness is shining through.

"Bergie tried but he just couldnt (return Sunday,)" Julien said. "So there was a big question mark there. The fact that he was able to be there this morning and skate with us to show that hes close . . . that was refreshing.

Well see tonight. Today was the first day Bergeron and Adam McQuaid skated and went through things, so well see how they feel after getting through the warm-up. Well make the right decision at that point. We want to play with healthy players at this point. You dont want to play them at 70 percent and then lose them for another week or two. Well make sure decisions are right no matter what the situation is.

The betting here: McQuaid sits tonight given Bostons depth at defensemen and Bergeron plays. The real answers will arrive during the warm-up skate tonight in Tampa.

Branch carries on with productive season after suspension is overturned

Branch carries on with productive season after suspension is overturned

FOXBORO – The first snap of the game for the Los Angeles Rams offense was an inside handoff to running back Todd Gurley. He was summarily stuffed by Patriots defensive lineman Alan Branch for a 1-yard loss.

It was happenstance, of course, that the Rams chose to run right at Branch. But it was no coincidence that the Branch was there to envelop Gurley like an upright sofa. The 6-foot-6, 350-pound, 31-year-old has been doing that all season. And on Saturday, word broke that he will be able to continue doing so, uninterrupted by NFL discipline.

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

Branch, who was set to be suspended by the NFL for testing positive for marijuana, had his suspension rescinded by the league. The league did so without hearing the appeal Branch filed. Apparently, they decided they just got it wrong. The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe reports that the traces of marijuana in Branch’s system were from a previously failed test and did not constitute a separate incident.

It’s been a strange season for Branch, a quirky, goofy, good-natured guy who dances during practices, stretching, on the sidelines and in between plays more than any other Patriot. That’s if any other Patriot actually dances. Branch was suspended by the team for a week during training camp. Reason unknown.

Regardless, his play’s been very good.

“This has definitely been the most productive year I’ve had so far,” he said. “Is it my best? When it comes to numbers it probably would be but there’s a lot of plays and a lot of games I could have done better. I’m kinda my own worst critic.”

Why has he been so productive?

“It’s a good defense for me,” he explained. “The playcalls and way we play goes to my strength to allow me to make plays and I’m making them.”

Branch has 40 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble this season. He had just that lone tackle on the stat sheet on Sunday, but he was a factor even if the stats don’t say so. During one first-half rush, Branch worked upfield with a bull rush, then spun back to his right to get in the face of Rams quarterback Jared Goff, forcing an incompletion.  

“That’s all reaction,” said Branch. “That was a hard day’s work on that play because I kept reacting and reacting and then I was right there. I just get out there and try to cause some ruckus.”

Meanwhile, the would-be suspension caused a ruckus for Branch prior to Saturday.

“I was upset because I knew I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “Having my name out there for my family and friends and my kids family and friends to see, you never want to have that on you. But I just wanted to go out there and take it one day at a time and play my best ball because I felt pretty confident that I was going to win the appeal or whatever was going to happen. I expected it because I didn’t see how it could go any other way when I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Asked if the league reached out to apologize for getting it wrong, Branch said, “I haven’t gotten anything yet. I haven’t read any emails yet, I haven’t opened my emails.”

Asked if he cares to hear an apology, Branch said, “I do care. I don’t know if it’s an apology or what (that he’s seeking) but the position I was put in was something else.”