Horton still not close to return

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Horton still not close to return

KANATA, ON Those banking on a Nathan Horton return to the Bruins during the playoffs may be waiting for a while.

While there was a hubbub of excitement over the news that he skated for more than 30 minutes on his own Wednesday prior to Bruins practice, the truth is that Horton is no closer to a return than he was last week. Claude Julien was asked after practice how Horton responded to Wednesdays twirl on the ice, and he immediately slammed on the brakes.

"Don't read into the fact that he skated, cautioned Julien. He's not even close to situation where you guys might think he is for a return."

The Bs power forward has missed 34 games and six weeks of action since suffering a concussion at the hands of a blindside Tom Sestito hit on Jan. 22 and a source close to Horton indicated toCSNNE.comthat the right winger wasnt likely to return during this postseason.

Heres a couple of reasons why: Horton is still weeks away from potentially practicing withhis teammates and even if he didnt have a single setback wouldnt be ready to go until the final few rounds of the playoffs. It would be unrealistic to think that a tentative, healthy Horton would be a better option than battle-hardened Bruins wingers that made it through the first few postseason rounds.

To put it in further perspective: the year Patrice Bergeron suffered his serious concussion and harbored hopes of returning for the playoffs, he had been skating hard since the beginning of March. He might have been ready for the second round.

Horton has taken one leisurely-paced skate to see how his nagging post-concussion symptoms would respond.

Theres also this startling fact: if Horton were to return in this springs playoffs for the Bruins and suffer another concussion as the nastiness increases with each postseason round, it would be the third major head injury for the 26-year-old in less than a full year.

Thats the kind of risk that can put a players entire future at risk and its the kind of mistake the Bruins made in rushing Marc Savard along for the postseason two years ago against the Flyers.

The Bruins would be making the same kind of error in rushing Horton back because hed had a few good weeks. So the notion that Horton is giving it a crack to come back for the playoffs isnt entirely accurate.

Horton is giving it a crack at returning to full health, and the hope is that the right winger will be back to smiling, scoring goals and giving Boston a power forward capable of potting 25 goals on the right side of Milan Lucic and David Krejci.

Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension

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Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension

The Patriots have signed linebacker and special teamer Jonathan Freeny to a two-year contract extension through 2018, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported.

Freeney, 27, was originally signed by the Patriots to a one-year free-agent deal in March 2015 after spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins. He then earned a one-year extension last September and played 13 games, seven starts, with 50 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. 

 

 

Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Danton Heinen.

Danton Heinen exploded into a high-profile prospect for the Bruins after finishing among the NCAA’s top scoring players a couple of years ago as a freshman along with a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. 

Since then, Heinen has continued to produce offense at the University of Denver and continued to create offense that leads to points. Now, the 21-year-old Heinen will be entering the professional arena for his first full season with the Bruins and he’ll be attempting to transition from the prospect phase to a regular gig in the NHL. That’s the challenge for a talented player who appears headed into a very good opportunity in NHL training camp.

 

What happened last year

Heinen was every bit as explosive in his second season for Denver as he was in his brilliant freshman campaign. He improved on his scoring with 20 goals and 48 points in 41 games. Then Heinen signed with the Bruins at the end of his sophomore season and played in a couple of pro games in the AHL with Providence as a tune-up for this first full pro campaign with the Bruins organization. Heinen finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in four games with the P-Bruins and showed the coaches in Providence that he was ready to play and produce with more talented players. If Heinen surprised a little bit as a breakout freshman two years ago, his sophomore follow-up in Denver last season proved to everybody that he wasn’t a fluke.

 

Questions to be answered this season

The real question surrounding Heinen is about his ceiling as an NHL player and just how good he can become as a player with the skills and playmaking abilities to be a top-six forward. He’s proven he can dominate at the collegiate level while admittedly playing with some pretty good teammates at Denver. Heinen showed at the end of the season in Providence that the pro scene might not be much different for him. At this point, Heinen simply needs to go out and prove it against the best players in the world and show that his speed, playmaking and hockey sense are all elite in the AHL or NHL. Heinen’s biggest obstacle might be his size. He'll need to survive as a targeted skill player despite not being much more than the 6-feet, 180-pound range for a forward. It’s about average for a playmaking wing in the NHL, but the hits and attention will be at a much more intense level than anything he faced in the NCAA world.

 

What they're saying

“He’s the type of player that he can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ and he’s got really good skill. I think anywhere you put him, he’s smart enough to figure it out. I think you’ll notice him during training camp. It will definitely be up to him, but I think he’ll push some guys.” –Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo on Heinen during last month’s development camp where Heinen soared as a performer.

 
Outlook

While Heinen still has some things he’ll need to prove before he’s a regular contributor for the Bruins, he comes into the Boston fold as an experienced player following two very good seasons at the college level. So, Heinen should be a little closer to plug-and-play for Claude Julien than some of the other young players that have come through the system in the past couple of years. Heinen will still need to flash in camp while being handed a big spot to perform with high-end veterans Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand potentially off playing in the World Cup of Hockey. Heinen also has a much greater chance of winning an NHL job sooner rather than later after the Bruins lost out on the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes and still have a top-six forward opening that somebody is going to fill. Heinen and Frank Vatrano are the two biggest favorites to fill that position, which became vacant when Loui Eriksson departed for Vancouver. Whichever winger loses that battle should be also be a strong candidate for a role on the third line, as well, barring any late veteran signings by the B’s. That set of circumstances leaves a very good situation for Heinen to potentially walk into with the Black and Gold, but he'll still have to show he’s fully capable of seizing his good fortune and good timing. 

49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy

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49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy

Colin Kaepernick was already a noteable NFL player as the one-time, and now apparently former, face of the San Francisco 49ers.

The quarterback likely will gain even more notoriety for his stance on refusing to stand for the national anthem at a preseason game on Friday:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told Steve Wyche of NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

In a statement released Saturday, the NFL said players "are encouraged but not required to" stand for the anthem.

More here from Mike Florio of NBCSports.com's Pro Football Talk on Kaepernick and Florio on the NFL's statement in response.