Ference has flu; Peverly gets maintenance day

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Ference has flu; Peverly gets maintenance day

WILMINGTON -- The Bruins will play one more game before the NHL's holiday break, before heading to Phoenix for a game next Wednesday.

That leaves four days off in between that Friday's game at home against the Panthers. The B's enter Friday while having three days off since their last game -- a 3-2 win against Montreal at the TD Garden.

So with the Bruins having plenty of time to rest between now and the end of the holiday break, coach Claude Julien is taking extra-advantage of that rest with at least one player.

Forward Rich Peverley -- who has two goals and five assists in the last four games, was one of two Bruins players not on the ice for the team's 40-minute practice on Wednesday at Ristuccia Arena.

The other missing player was defenseman Andrew Ference, who, according to Julien, is "battling the famous flu bug."

Peverley's absence was a maintenance day.

"Peverley is maintenance," said Julien after practice. "And you know, again, it's the same thing, where we're having a good look at our schedule and what that may do for him. So we're going to keep him off there for the next couple of days. And tomorrow is certainly another one of those days, and we'll decide whether he's in on Friday. And if not, then that will give him at least a good week. So we're going to be making a decision on him, regarding his situation."

It seems as if Julien is planning Peverley's maintenance days around the upcoming holiday break, a break in which he knows will be much more pleasant if they enter it with a win.

"It's like that every year," said Julien. "You'd like to finish on a positive note, so that we can head into Christmas and probably enjoy it a little bit more. Every team, I'm sure, thinks the same way. So, on our end of it, we have no excuse. We've had some time off here from playing. Hopefully we'll be the fresher team of the two when that game comes around."

Julien described Wednesday's practice as "short, but intense." He stressed that while the team is winning, it makes for a time in which they must focus even more on the little mistakes, rather than just move along as if everything is perfect.

"That's when you've got to be a little tougher on yourselves," said Julien. "When things are going well, you want to nitpick at that. When things aren't going as well, it's mostly about getting the confidence and everything going again. Right now, we've been nitpicking at certain parts of our game. We've talked about the neutral zone and giving up 40-plus shots for a few games. And that wasn't because of Zdeno more than it was because of our whole team not being very good in the neutral zone.

"So we nitpicked at the D-zone, and today we kept doing some drills which might have looked more like a fun day, but it was more about being stronger on the puck, puck protection, and being able to battle. We wanted to get better at that, so it's another area where we're trying to improve.

"We just want to get through here the next few days, and finish off on a high note," later added Julien. "And then get those two, three days at Christmas, which should give them the rest that they need."

Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

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Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

During our series discussing the 1986 Boston Celtics, we have sat down with many players from that championship, along with members of the media that were close to the team.

This week features a few of the opponents that were very familiar with the 1980’s Celtics  - Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins, former Celtics coach (and Hawk) Doc Rivers, and Lakers great James Worthy.

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

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Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

BOSTON -- Early in 2016 praises were sung around the league that Xander Bogaerts was the best hitter in baseball.

Rightfully so. For a good portion of the season he led the league in both batting average and hits. But between Mookie Betts’ ascension and Bogaerts’ drop in average from .331 on 7/29 to .306 after Monday night’s game, he’s taken a back seat.

But the Red Sox shortstop’s month-long dry spell hasn’t been a straight decline. Although he was held hitless Monday, Bogaerts went 6-for-13 (.462) against Kansas City.

In fact, the 23-year-old doesn’t even consider the recent month of struggles the worst stretch of his career.

“2014 probably,” Bogaerts said, “yeah I had a terrible, terrible few months -- probably three months.”

That was of course the season a lot came into question surrounding the now All-Star shortstop, so he was pretty spot on. In 2014 Bogaerts went from hitting .304 through 5/31, to .248 by the end of June, .244 after his last game in July, all the way down to .224 by the last day of August.

Bogaerts would hit .313 that September and finish with a .240 average -- but more importantly, an appreciation of what he’d experienced.

“That definitely helped me become a better person, a better player -- and understanding from that and learning,” Bogaerts said.

From that experience, he gained a better understanding of the importance of maintaining a consistent day-to-day routine.

“That has to stay the same,” Bogaerts said without question in his voice. “The league adjusted, they adjusted to me. It kind of took a longer time to adjust to them. They’ve just been pitching me so differently compared to other years.”

Bogaerts has had the point reinforced to him throughout, with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez serving as one voice of reinforcement.

“When you have a routine from the mental side, physical side, when you struggle that’s when you really need that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been so good with his daily preparation, it doesn’t matter the result of the game. He can always go to something that feels comfortable.”

“He’s been so comfortable and confident with his daily routine and preparation that it allows him -- when he doesn’t get the results he wants in the game -- to have some peace knowing that the next day, we’re going to go back to doing that again.”

It’s clear Bogaerts needs to maintain his daily routine to help work through slumps -- and maintain hot streaks -- but Rodriguez made it clear, consistent preparation from a hitter doesn’t magically cure every problem.

“That doesn’t mean that because you stick with the routine you’re going to have results,” Rodriguez said. “What it means is, [because] you know and believe in that routine that you know you’re going to get out of it.”

Which means in addition to sticking to his normal routine, Bogaerts also had to identify flaws elsewhere in order work through his problems. He came to realize the problem was more mechanically based than mental -- given he’d done everything to address that.

“They pitched me differently, and some stuff I wanted to do with the ball I couldn’t do,” Bogaerts said. “I just continued doing it until I had to make the adjustment back.”

Bogaerts isn’t fully out of the dark, but he’s taken steps in the right direction of late -- and is nowhere near the skid he experienced in 2014. He and Rodriguez fully believe the All-Star’s ability to maintain a clear mind will carry him through whatever troubles he’s presented with the rest of the way.

“The more stuff you have in you’re head is probably not going to help your chances,” Bogaerts explained, “so have a clear mind -- but also have the trust in your swing that you’re going to put a good swing on [the pitch] regardless of whatever the count is.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.