Haggerty's Bruins-Senators preview

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Haggerty's Bruins-Senators preview

KANATA, ON The Bruins made their statements about Thursday nights game when they left Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas back in Boston rather than place their key players in the final road game of the season. Boston has earned the right to fully prepare for the playoffs by capturing the No. 2 seed, and now theyre setting everything into motion.

The aim is to get everyone in a Black and Gold uniform well-rested and healthy for the seemingly inevitable first round matchup between Boston and Ottawa, and that includes making it through Thursday night healthy. Ottawa needs one more point to lock up the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and they also will certainly be looking to make a statement against a Bruins team thats dominated while taking four out of five against them this season.

If we take the approach to the playoffs that teams will roll over then wed be in some big trouble," said Kelly. "The regular season is the regular season, and the playoffs are a whole different beast. Youve seen it in the past where a team has done extremely well against a team during the regular season, and then it goes the other way during the playoffs. The regular season gets thrown out the window after Saturday.

The Senators will be looking to ride the momentum of their last win, a tight 1-0 affair, over the Bruins at TD Garden, and harness the kind of effort and intensity they showed in the final period played at Scotiabank Place. Thats when Chris Neil trucked Johnny Boychuk with one of the hardest hockey hits seen anywhere this season, and Kyle Turris threw a very questionable hit at Joe Corvo.

It wouldnt shock or stun to see any of that coming from an underdog Sens team that wants to be taken seriously, or from a Bruins team thats just looking to get out of Ottawa with their roster entirely intact.

Its important to stay sharp. You dont want your intensity to drop because its tough to turn it on once its been shut off, said Mike Mottau. We want to play well structurally and play strong. Thats the best way to end the season feeling about where our game is going. You can send a message by simply imposing your will and playing with strength in a game like this.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Apparently somebody needs to start doing some PR work for Mike Mottau so he can earn himself a proper spot in Bostons lineup headed into the playoffs. The local hockey standout has been rock-steady since arriving in Boston from the Islanders organization, and should have a place at the table for the playoffs with injuries beginning to erode Bostons defensemen depth. Mottau will get another chance to state his playoff case Thursday night against Ottawa, and has formed together with Greg Zanon nicely as a defensemen duo.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Its not a playoff preview because theres nothing confirmed yet. The one thing I can tell you is that you dont win in this league by simply showing up. We dont talk about speculation. I wont get into it until its confirmed. Im not wasting my time worrying about that until its confirmed. Claude Julien didnt want to answer any questions about Thursday night as a potential playoff preview between the Bruins and Senators.

KEY MATCHUP: Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza have combined for 11 points in nine games against the Bruins this season, and will be the deadly offensive duo in any playoff series. Normally it would be Zdeno Charas job to shut down Ottawas top line, but now that will likely fall to Dennis Seidenberg and a defenseman to be named later. Watching Anton Khudobin face an NHL lineup for the first time in a couple of years should be enlightening when starting to formulate some postseason ideas.

STAT TO WATCH: 1 the number of NHL fights for Lane MacDermid after tangling with Mike Rupp of the New York Rangers earlier this season. Theres a good possibility Chris Neil could come calling tonight.

INJURIES: Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are long term injuries for the Bruins, but Rask hit the ice Wednesday with an eye toward returning for the playoffs. Johnny Boychuk is out with a mildly sprained left knee. Adam McQuaid has missed three games with a left laceration, but skated in pregame warm-ups at Scotiabank Place. The Ottawa Senators appear relatively healthy at this point in time.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Anton Khudobin will be making his first NHL appearance with the Boston Bruins in his second season of duty with the Black and Gold. Khudobin is a 25-year-old native of Kazakhstan that has settled in as the No. 3 goaltender on the organizational depth chart, and many within the Bs organization feel hes a late-blooming, puck-stopping talent. He may be in line for the backup role for the playoffs if Tuukka Rask isnt ready to play. Ben Bishop will be getting the start for the Senators and the 6-foot-7 goaltender is hoping to show the Ottawa coaching staff that his lingering groin issues have abated just in time for the postseason.

Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

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Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

Monday may have marked a low point in the relationship between the NFL and its on-field employees.

The fight between the league and its best player of the past two decades was in the headlines again. Tom Brady, tied to the NFL’s bumper and dragged around for almost 500 days, had his NFLPA legal team baring its teeth again in the Deflategate mess. The eye-gouging and hair-pulling in that imbroglio over a puff of air allegedly being removed from footballs has cost the league and the PA about $25M so far.

Meanwhile, NFLPA President Eric Winston was saying the league "cannot be trusted to do the right thing when it involves players.” That comment flowed from a Congressional report alleging the NFL tried to exert influence over who would conduct studies regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the condition that’s been blamed for a myriad of former players winding up addled, incapacitated or dead.

I say “may have marked” because the relationship between the two sides has cratered so frequently over the past two years, it’s hard to know exactly what the low point has been. Or how much lower it can go.

And, with the 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement only half done, there is ample opportunity for things to get worse. Because, really, why would they get better?

With the NFL’s owners safe knowing that their emperor/puppet/human shield is still in place to take the hits and do their dirty work, there’s seemingly no groundswell among that group to relieve Roger Goodell of his duties. Despite reports of growing owner discontent over Deflategate, the Ray Rice investigation, and an appeal of a case in which the league was found to have withheld $100M from players, there is no Sword of Damocles dangling over the league to cut ties with Goodell.

He was able to oversee the league’s re-entry in Los Angeles (though that “triumph” was fraught with owner acrimony), is going to get a game played in China, keeps edging closer to getting a franchise based in Europe and may even land one in Las Vegas, has enhanced the league’s reach on social media (the announcement of some games being aired on Twitter) and keeps making billions hand over fist.

Goodell’s presence won’t be an impediment to a new labor deal getting done for another five years. By then, when the issues of Goodell’s role in player discipline, drug testing and his relationship with the union come to the fore, the owners might feel compelled to cut him loose after 15 seasons in charge.

But even then, the league’s owners will be in the business of pointing out to the players how good they’ve had it under the current CBA. The league’s salary cap structure – decried as a disaster in the first years of the deal – has seen the cap grow from $120M in 2011 to $155M this year. Players’ practice time and the wear and tear on their bodies has been reduced thanks to the new limits on contact enacted. Benefits are better. Retired players are getting better care. Players have more off-field marketing opportunities with companies that want to affix themselves to the most popular sport in the United States.

As bad as the headlines have been for Goodell, in five years (or probably fewer since negotiations on a new CBA will begin in 2020) who will remember the disaster that’s been Deflategate? How inspired will players be to miss games and paychecks for the satisfaction of knowing Goodell can’t be his own arbitrator anymore?

To sum it up, Goodell’s dark disciplinary reign may well continue unabated for a few more seasons. But as long as the league rains money on its players through the end of this decade, the clock isn’t ticking on Goodell and the owners in the form of labor strife.

Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

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Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the Dan Patrick Show -- hosted by Ross Tucker on Monday -- to discuss the petition that was eventually filed to the Second Circuit requesting a rehearing for Tom Brady's case. 

During the discussion, Smith insisted that Brady made a settlement offer long ago that might've resolved things. But because the NFL wanted more, a deal was never struck. Now here we are, almost 500 days since the AFC Championship Game in January of 2015, and Deflategate is still a living, breathing thing. 

"Tom's a standup guy," Smith said. "And I think he made a settlement offer to resolve this. The league chose not to take it, and that's where we are . . . I don't want to go into details, but it was an incredibly generous offer to resolve this. The league asked for something that no man should agree to do."

Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran explained on Monday's episode of Quick Slants that Brady was willing to accept a one-game suspension for a lack of cooperation at the outset of the investigation. But the league was looking for a face to take the blame, Curran explained. 

Both Jim McNally and John Jastremski were willing to take the heat off of Brady, but Brady insisted that he would not throw anyone else under the bus because he believed that there was no wrongdoing on his part or anyone else's when it came to the preparation of game footballs. 

With no one offered up to shoulder the blame, the NFL declined to agree to any proposal from Brady's camp. At that point, it would have been almost impossible to predict that this case would one day be only a step or two from getting the US Supreme Court involved. 

Yet here we are.