Marchand understands Julien's message

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Marchand understands Julien's message

Brad Marchand was saying all of the right things as he sat at his locker stall on Friday afternoon.

The Bruins agitator had just finished a surprising practice session at TD Garden that saw Claude Julien mix up his forward lines like a dealer shuffling cards at Twin Rivers Casino. The alterations were eyebrow-raising to just everyone. They alsosent a resounding message to the Nose Face Killah that it was time to step up his production and intensity level.

The Bs coach dropped Marchand onto the fourth line where it all began for the 5-foot-8 winger as a rookie last season, and had him skating with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. Super sophomore Tyler Seguin is scoreless in his last 15 NHL playoff games, and found himself dropped to the third line as wellwith Benoit Pouliot and Chris Kelly.

Julien, Marchand and his teammates were all noncommittal when asked if they expected these new-look forward lines to last heading into Game 5 at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon. But seeing a staple on one of the B's top lines from all season donning a Merlot fourth line practice sweater clearly meant a coaching message was at work.

But it's an important message from Julien. The top six forwards willbear the playoff blame unless they'reable to scratch and grind their way to some offense. So a kick in the pants might be exactly what the doctor ordered for a group of talented young Bruins players that have been satisfied with a comfortable game during the playoffs against a surprisingly ruggedWashington team .

But the Bs agitator also answered in the affirmative when asked whether a move to the fourth line a place he hasnt skated on since the middle of last season when he was firstbumped up next to Patrice Bergeron was the coaching staff sending a clearmessage his way after weeks of inconsistent offensive performance.Was the coach sending a message to his rabble-rousing winger?

A little bit, but its up to me to respond. I know Ive got to be better and I know that. Its on me to step up and bring the game that I can., said Marchand. Ive played with Soupy Gregory Campbell and Thorty Shawn Thornton last year and we played really well together and hopefully we can bring that intensity. We were pretty offensive last year too so hopefully we can bring that as well.

Marchand had 28 goals on the season while finishing second in the goal-scoring racefor the Bruins, but hes managed only eight shots on net during the four playoff games against the Washington Capitals. Of course, Marchand finished behind Seguin who is similarly scoreless during the postseason thus far.But that's a story for another day.The Little Ball of Hate is one of Bostons most fearless and dogged forwards when it comes to sacrificing a little pain and discomfort whileventuring to the front of the painted area in the offensive zone. But he hasn't done much of it during these playoffs. "It's a part of trying to find solutions and its as simple as that. Youve got to mix up guys who are not getting the results that wed like to," said Claude Julien. "So, youre trying to make changes that will maybe spark that part of our game."

This was always the time of year in Bruins' season pastwhen Mark Recchi would talk about players getting out of their comfort zone or doing things that might not necessarily feel good when the playoffs arrive. It's something theBruins havent done enough of it in their first year without Rex during the playoffs.Marchand and Lucic are the most egregious examples of it given their skill set and willingness to grind, and it's time for both prime time forwards to get their signature noses into the danger areas on the ice.

Julien pointed to the goals by Daniel Paille and Brian Rolstonfrom their Game 3 win over the Capitals as exactly what the Bruins should be doing againsta willing and capabledefensive lineup. Paille and Rolston both battled for position in front of the net, and the goals were there when they scroungedfor the rebounds or reached out to tip a puck in front of the cage.

Thats the pathway for Marchand to get back to his linemates - and top six forward glory -after Julien played crazy mad scientist with the forward lines. Its alsothe blueprint Marchand needs to follow for effectivenessin the playoffs and the reminder Julien has attempting to bestow with a practice reminder of his humble beginnings prior to an important Game 4 showdown.

Top Red Sox prospect Sam Travis out for year with torn ACL

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Top Red Sox prospect Sam Travis out for year with torn ACL

As good as things have gone for the Red Sox so far in 2016, their 2017 prospects took a bit of a blow over the weekend.

Sam Travis -- one of the organization's top prospects, and someone who opened a lot of eyes with an impressive spring-training showing this year -- suffered a torn ACL on Sunday while playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox and will be lost for the rest of the season. He was hurt while playing first base, collapsing as he chased down an opposition baserunner during a rundown play. He had to be helped off the field, and the extent of the injury was announced on Monday.

With David Ortiz retiring at the end of this season and Hanley Ramirez expected to replace him as the full-time designated hitter, the door was open for Travis to become the Red Sox' first baseman next year. Playing at Triple-A for the first time, the 22-year-old Travis -- honored by the Red Sox as their Minor League Offensive Player of the the Year in 2015 -- was hitting .272/.332/.434 with 10 doubles, 6 home runs and 29 RBI in 47 games.

Now, however, it's almost a complete certainty Travis won't be able to start next season in Boston. And depending on what the Red Sox do in the offseason to replace Ortiz, such as a signing a free agent to a multiyear contract, Travis' path upward in the Sox organization may become less wide open . . . if not blocked.

Kevin Durant's future a mystery as OKC collapses

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Kevin Durant's future a mystery as OKC collapses

OAKLAND, Calif. - As Stephen Curry dribbled out the clock in a raucous Oracle Arena, Kevin Durant could only stand and watch.

The Golden State Warriors are heading back to the NBA Finals, while Durant's future in Oklahoma City is much less certain.

Two nights after blowing an opportunity to close out the defending champion Warriors at home, the Thunder got sent home for the summer when they lost Game 7 of the Western Conference finals 96-88 on Monday night.

Instead of becoming known as the team that knocked off the Warriors after their record-setting 73-win regular season, the Thunder will be remembered for a playoff collapse. They became just the 10th NBA team to lose a playoff series after taking a 3-1 lead and now head into an uncertain offseason with Durant eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in July.

If he does leave the only franchise he has played for in his nine-year career, he will do it having failed to deliver the championship to Oklahoma City. The closest the Thunder have gotten in Durant's tenure was when they lost the NBA Finals in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012.

They then lost in the second round the next season, in the conference finals in 2014 to San Antonio before missing the playoffs entirely because of an injury to Durant last year.

But under first-year coach Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City earned the third seed in the top-heavy Western Conference this season and then upset 67-win San Antonio in the second round. The Thunder followed that by winning three of the first four games against the Warriors, with a pair of lopsided wins at home.

But after losing Game 5 on the road, the Thunder blew an opportunity to eliminate the Warriors at home on Saturday night. Oklahoma City led by seven points with less than five minutes remaining but made only one basket and committed six turnovers down the stretch of a 108-101 loss that could haunt the franchise for years.

The Thunder responded on the road in Game 7 by taking a 13-point lead in the second quarter. But once Curry and Klay Thompson started hitting Oklahoma City with a flurry of 3-pointers, the Thunder had no answer. The Splash Brothers combined for 13 3-pointers as Golden State outscored Oklahoma City by 30 points from behind the line.

Oklahoma City's stars were no match. Russell Westbrook missed 14 of 21 from the field and shot just 36.8 percent in the three potential clinchers. Durant finished with 27 points but took only 10 shots in the first three quarters.

Durant did score seven straight points to cut an 11-point deficit to four with 1:40 remaining. But Serge Ibaka then fouled Curry on a 3-pointer with the shot clock running down, allowing Golden State to build the lead back to seven.

Durant then missed two shots and could only stare blankly when Curry ended Oklahoma City's season with a 3-pointer with 26.8 seconds left. Now the Thunder can only hope it doesn't end Durant's tenure in Oklahoma City as well.