Haggerty's Bruins-Sabres game preview

668934.jpg

Haggerty's Bruins-Sabres game preview

BUFFALO The Bruins certainly shouldnt be lacking for motivation Friday night when they storm the frozen sheet in Brad Marchands favorite city.

The Bruins will be looking to put together their first consecutive wins since Jan. 12 during a stretch thats seen the Black and Gold go a thoroughly mediocre 8-9-1 during that span. That will be the rallying cry for a point-starved Bruins team looking to get the victory wagon rolling again.

Its about bringing the same effort and bringing the same intensity, said Patrice Bergeron, perhaps the perfect spokesman for the Bs. Its about playing our game and playing our system. Consistency is something that we have to have coming down the stretch and it starts tonight.

But theres more than that. Tuukka Rask was pulled from the last tilt in Buffalo after allowing three goals on 10 shots, and was embarrassed enough that he felt it necessary to apologize to Tim Thomas on ice as the 37-year-old netminder was called in to replace him.

Buffalo obviously pretty much embarrassed us in the last game. We have to be prepared and we have to be ready for that big match-up tonight, said Bergeron. For us to establish consistency this is a huge game for us.

It was the worst Bs defeat in nearly four years to a team like Buffalo with players like Ryan Miller and Patrick Kaleta that are pretty clearly despised within the Boston room. So one doesnt have to guess the Bruins will be trending highly on the motivation scale playing a team thats still harboring fantastical hopes for playoff life this season, but in essence has zero shot at the postseason.

Its been a star-crossed season for a Buffalo team thats been hit by injuries, but has also been beset with questions about their heart and character when they didnt respond to Milan Lucic burying their skin-and-bones goaltender all the way back on Nov. 12. The Bruins were in the middle of going 12-0-1 that month when they emasculated the Sabres on the TD Garden ice, and they still have inside their dressing room.

Theyre down both Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley at this point and the rumor mill is inviting Dustin Brown in as the trade deadline target du jour for Boston, but now is as good a time as any if the Bruins plan on a strong finishing kick.

Weve got to have the same mindset. We were a determined group in that last game. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort level a little bit in order to accomplish that, said Claude Julien. We need to carry that into that tonight. Our focus should be on that and nothing else. Lets put all of the other distractions aside and focus on the job.

With wins in Buffalo and Ottawa this weekend, the Bruins can finish with a 4-2-0 road trip that once seemed destined for February doldrums disaster.

The proof will be out on the ice earning the two points rather than idle chatter about consistency and winning streaks, and the proceedings get started at 7:30 p.m.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Tyler Seguin has only one goal in 11 games since NHL All-Star weekend and spoke on Thursdays off-day about the monkey on his back. With partner Brad Marchand notching a pair of goals in Bostons last game against the Blues and skipping ahead of Seguin for the team-lead in goals, the 20-year-old should flying against the Sabres. Seguin has squeezed off 37 shots in 10 games during the month of February, and has just the single goal to show for it.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Hopefully we can put a few wins in a row here rather than back-and-forth with wins and losses, and the flip-flopping, said Seguin. The last few days weve been having fun with our jobs. Lately it hadnt been too much fun with way too much negative energy . . . myself included. Tyler Seguin tapped into the positive vibes against the Blues and wants to keep it going.

KEY MATCHUP: Buffalo youngster Zack Kassian was often compared to Milan Lucic when he was drafted by the Sabres in the first round three years ago and now should find himself in the lineup against No. 17. Kassian was called up in the days following Bostons first game in Buffalo when Lucic squared off against Paul Gaustad in a bell-answering move in connection with his collision with Ryan Miller. Tonight might be the game when the master gets challenged by the up-and-coming apprentice, and Kassian gets to see how he stacks up against his power forward role model.

STAT TO WATCH: 8 the number of times that the Bruins have allowed six or more goals in a game since the 2008-09 season including once this season in 6-0 loss to the Sabres.

INJURIES: Corey Tropp was called up to Buffalo from AHL Rochester and practiced in place of injured forward Brad Boyes (hand). Cody McCormick (upper body) and Jochen Hecht (concussion) are both out for the Sabres. Nathan Horton (mild concussion) and Rich Peverley (sprained knee) are out for the Bruins. Shawn Thornton (flu) has missed practices, but is expected to play for the Bruins.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask is expected to get the start for the Bruins and hes looking to snap a five-game losing streak and avenge getting pulled against Buffalo on Feb. 8 in his last appearance at the first Niagara Center. Ryan Miller will get the start for the Sabres and is 5-3-3 with a 2.03 goals against average during a sparkling month of February.

OFFSEASON

Durant leads U.S. to second exhibition rout, 106-57 over China

usa_kevin_durant_072416.jpg

Durant leads U.S. to second exhibition rout, 106-57 over China

LOS ANGELES - Just two games into the U.S. basketball team's pre-Olympic tour, coach Mike Krzyzewski already sees the start of something big.

Kevin Durant scored 19 points, Klay Thompson added 17 and the Americans rolled to a second straight blowout exhibition victory, 106-57 over China on Sunday night.

DeMar DeRozan scored 13 points in his hometown, and DeMarcus Cousins had 12 points and seven rebounds in the second stop on the five-city tour leading the Americans to Rio de Janeiro. The victory over an overmatched opponent was impressive, but Krzyzewski liked it more for the composed, cohesive manner in which the new teammates worked together.

"We should have won, but the way we won was excellent," Krzyzewski said. "We're really growing together as a group."

After opening their showcase tour by trouncing Argentina in Las Vegas on Friday night, the U.S. team posted another rout at a packed Staples Center. Krzyzewski is finding it difficult to disguise his early optimism, praising his team's work in their brief practice time together.

And while they're still learning their teammates' tendencies and solidifying player rotations, the U.S. team looked remarkably connected for long stretches against China, which has no current NBA players.

Durant noticed it, as did Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who kicked off the festivities by blocking a shot on China's first possession and throwing down an alley-oop dunk on the Americans' first possession.

"We've only been together a week, but it seems like we've been teammates for years," Jordan said.

Jordan scored 12 points and led a strong defensive effort with three blocks for the Americans, who held the Chinese to 30.9 percent shooting. Krzyzewski believes the American team will excel at defensive switching because of its abundance of versatile players.

"I think we're learning more about one another, and our defense was there pretty much the whole game," Krzyzewski said.

The Americans haven't lost a game since the 2006 world championships, winning 65 straight games. They're 47-1 in exhibitions since NBA stars took over the roster in 1992, going undefeated since 2004.

While LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard all declined the chance to play in Rio, the Americans who accepted the opportunity appear to be serious about winning without some of the nation's top stars.

"We're young, but we've got a bunch of seasoned pros," said Kyrie Irving, who had 10 points and four assists. "We've been on a lot of journeys, and we've crossed paths before, but now we're all coming together at the right time."

Anthony was the only holdover in the Americans' starting lineup from Las Vegas while Krzyzewski works on chemistry and coordination. He put Paul George in with the starters alongside Anthony, Jordan, Kyle Lowry and DeRozan, whose family watched from courtside.

Both teams had early shooting struggles, but the Americans took charge with impressive speed late in the first quarter.

Durant, one of the two returning American gold medalists from London, heard boos from the LA crowd during pregame introductions. He quickly found his outside stroke with 14 points and four assists in the first half, and Cousins overpowered the Chinese down low for 12 first-half points on the way to a 55-29 halftime lead.

The Chinese team's most recognizable name to North Americans is Yi Jianlian, the Milwaukee Bucks' choice with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He spent five seasons with four NBA teams before heading back to the Guangdong Southern Tigers.

Yi led the Chinese with 18 points. Zhou Qi, the 7-foot-2 center drafted by the Houston Rockets in the second round last month, scored two points on 1-for-6 shooting. Exciting guard Zhao Jiwei scored 14 points.

The teams meet again Tuesday in Oakland, where Durant will play in front of his new home fans for the first time since defecting from Oklahoma City to the Golden State Warriors earlier this month.

They'll also meet Aug. 6 in the opening game of Olympic competition in Brazil.

White Sox suspend Chris Sale over uniform flap

chris_sale.jpg

White Sox suspend Chris Sale over uniform flap

CHICAGO - The Chicago White Sox were set to wear throwback uniforms. Chris Sale had other ideas.

The White Sox suspended their ace five days without pay for destroying collared throwback uniforms the team was scheduled to wear.

The team announced the punishment on Sunday after Sale was scratched from his scheduled start and sent home the previous night.

The suspension comes to $250,000 of his $9.15 million salary. He was also fined about $12,700 - the cost of the destroyed jerseys - according to a person familiar with the penalty. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

"Obviously we're all extremely disappointed that we have to deal with this issue at this time both from the standpoint of the club as well as Chris' perspective," general manager Rick Hahn said. "It's unfortunate that it has become this level of an issue and potential distraction taking away from what we're trying to accomplish on the field."

Sale was not expected at the ballpark on Sunday. He is eligible to return Thursday against the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field, though Hahn would not say if the left-hander would start that game.

The Major League Baseball Players Association declined comment, spokesman Greg Bouris said. Sale could ask the union to file a grievance.

FanRag Sports first reported Sale was protesting the 1976-style jerseys, which were navy and sported unusual collars on a hot and humid night.

Sale then cut up an unknown number of jerseys before the game and was told to leave the stadium. With not enough usable 1976 jerseys available, the White Sox wore white throwback uniforms from the 1983 season.

The incident comes with the White Sox in a tailspin after a 23-10 start and Sale's name circulating in trade rumors.

"The actions or behaviors of the last 24 hours does not change in any aspect, any respect, our belief that Chris Sale can help this club win a championship and win multiple championships," Hahn said. "It does not move the needle one iota in terms of his value to this club, his value to any other club that may be interested in his services or the likelihood of him being moved or kept whatsoever. None of that stuff is impacted at all by these events."

The incident does raise some questions in general about throwback uniforms, how players feel about them and whether they should be forced to wear jerseys that aren't comfortable - particularly starting pitchers.

"If I'm playing with Chris Sale I want him to pitch," Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said. "If he wants to play with no shirt, we play with no shirt. I just want him to pitch."

New York Yankees pitcher Chasen Shreve said: "Pitchers like their stuff. Me, it doesn't bother me, but for him, obviously it does. It's crazy. I don't think I'm that bad."

White Sox pitcher James Shields wouldn't comment on whether players should be made to wear throwback jerseys. But he did say: "I don't really mind the throwbacks. I haven't had any issues with that."

Manager Robin Ventura said players occasionally wearing uniforms they don't like comes with the job.

"But you wear it," he said. "If you want to rip it after, you can rip it up after. I've seen guys rip it up after."

Hahn said throwback uniforms the White Sox wore last season were a bit baggy so the team took measurements in spring training so they would fit the players better. He also mentioned the money the uniforms generate.

"Part of the element of being in position to win a championship is the revenue side of the operation and respect for their reasonable requests to increase revenue," Hahn said.

This wasn't the first flare-up involving the 27-year-old Sale, who is known for his competitive streak and strict training regimen.

He was openly critical of team executive Ken Williams during spring training when he said Drake LaRoche, the son of teammate Adam LaRoche, would no longer be allowed in the clubhouse. Adam LaRoche retired as a result, and Sale hung the LaRoches' jerseys in his locker.

He was also suspended five games by Major League Baseball last season for his role in a brawl at Kansas City that started with a flare-up between teammate Adam Eaton and the Royals' Yordano Ventura. Sale went to the Royals clubhouse after he got tossed and was seen pounding on the door.

Hahn said the punishment was unrelated to previous incidents. He also said the two had a "very candid" meeting in his office with Sale after the pitcher had some exchanges with staff members in the clubhouse and that both "expressed remorse." They spoke again on Sunday.

"At that point last night Chris stood by his actions," Hahn said. "Part of what makes Chris great, part of what makes him elite, is his passion and commitment. We've seen that sometimes spill out from between the white lines. Yesterday was one of those instances and it unfortunately led to events that required discipline."