Wakeup Call: Blackhawks stake their claim as best of the West

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Wakeup Call: Blackhawks stake their claim as best of the West

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Wednesday, February 6.

AUTO RACING
-- After a tire test Tuesday at Darlngton Raceway, drivers give a thumbs-up to the new Gen-6 race car. (AP)

BASEBALL
-- The burgeoning drug scandal has implicated Ryan Braun -- again -- but the 2011 N.L. MVP is ready with an explanation. (AP)

-- And it'd better be good, because MLB has started its own investigation into the Miami New Times report. (AP)

-- That investigation may lead to suspensions, but the Rangers -- whose Nelson Cruz was named in the New Times story -- say they're planning on having Cruz in right field until they're told otherwise. (AP)

-- Um, Derek? Does the phrase "beggars can't be choosers" mean anything to you? (NBC's Hardball Talk)

-- Funny, I never heard the words "Jed Lowrie" and "veteran leadership" used together before. (CSN Houston)

-- Spring training hasn't even started and already the Cardinals have suffered a big loss. (AP)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
-- If we can get a couple more games that match No. 3 Michigan's 76-74, overtime win over No. 10 Ohio State on the excitement meter, we'll consider this a successful season. (AP)

-- So stop worrying about college hoops, will ya? (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

-- So much for that No. 2 ranking, eh, Florida? (AP)

-- Wouldn't this be considered a hostile act against foreign entities? (AP)

-- Old Dominion raises a number of questions about coach Blaine Taylor as it fires him with eight games to go in the season . . . and then refuses to answer any of them. (AP)

-- A tip of the hat to Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw as she records her 700th career coaching victory in the Irish women's 59-52 win over Villanova. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
-- Starting soon, Northwestern will be calling Wrigley Field home, at least once a year. (AP)

HOCKEY
-- The Blackhawks stake their claim as best in the West with a 5-3 victory over the Sharks in San Jose. (CSN Chicago)

-- The Sharks might be blaming the refs for this one, but that wouldn't be completely accurate. (CSN Bay Area)

-- Blame them for what, you ask? Take a look. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

-- The NHL did, and immediately rescinded the match penalty that was handed to Andrew Desjardins. (CSN Bay Area)

-- It probably won't be rescinding this one, though. (Pro Hockey Talk)

-- An acid flashback for the Rangers, as they suffer a 3-1 loss to the Devils . . . the team that beat them in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. (AP)

-- It's the dreaded lower-body injury, and it may cost the Flames the services of Miikka Kiprusoff for a while. (AP)

-- Can't quite decide on the proper phrase -- Grasping at straws? Whistling past the graveyard? -- for Adam Oates' declaration that the Capitals are "going in the right direction" after a 3-2 loss to Toronto that drops their record to 2-7-1. (Pro Hockey Talk)

PRO BASKETBALL
-- Bet when you heard that the Rockets nailed 23 3-pointers in their 140-109 blasting of the Warriors, you thought, "Hmm, bet that's a record." And you know what? You were right! (AP)

-- Bet you also thought, "Wow, bet the Warriors were pretty upset that they were launching 3s with such a big lead." And you what? You were right again! (CSN Bay Area)

-- But if you thought the Rockets were at all remorseful about the whole thing, you were wrong. (CSN Houston)

-- Even when the Lakers win these days, they lose. Players, that is. (AP)

-- The word's in on Thaddeus Young: He's out three weeks because of that Grade 1 hamstring strain. (CSN Philly)

PRO FOOTBALL
-- That intentional, last-second safety taken by the Ravens Sunday night may not have meant much to you, but it was a killer to the Nevada sports books, who had to pay off on the will-there-be-a-safety-in-the-game? and will-the-49ers-last-points-come-on-a-safety? prop bets. (NBC's Off The Bench)

-- They still don't know what caused the third-quarter power outage, so Superdome officials and the utility companies are bringing in "outside experts" to investigate. (AP)

-- No Super Bowl halftime show next year? There is a God! (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

-- Quite the day for the Ravens: They had their victory parade . . . (AP)

-- . . . and President Obama phoned in his congratulations to John Harbaugh. (CSN Baltimore)

-- But today is the first day of the rest of their lives, and it's starting with Joe Flacco's agent saying that his client should be the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. (Pro Football Talk)

-- And Bernard Pollard warning that the Ravens have to bring back Ed Reed. (Pro Football Talk)

-- And ex-Raven Trevor Pryce ripping Ray Lewis' performance in the Super Bowl. (CSN Baltimore)

-- Sorry, Jim Harbaugh: Despite your theatrical, over-the-top pleas for a holding call on the 49ers' final offensive play, Mike Pereira says the referees were right when they didn't flag Jimmy Smith for whatever it was he did, or didn't do, to Michael Crabtree. (CSN Bay Area)

-- As one season ends and a new one begins, teams begin to shed those onerous contracts or declining veterans. In Detroit, the Lions say goodbye to Kyle Vanden Bosch and Stephen Peterman. (AP)

-- In New York, the Giants bid farewell to Michael Boley. (AP)

-- And in Cleveland, the Browns say so long to Frostee Rucker. (AP)

-- But in Philadelphia -- surprise, surprise -- the Eagles aren't parting ways with Michael Vick. Not yet, anyway. (Pro Football Talk)

-- A new season means a new look for the Jaguars. Literally. (AP)

-- Only the fourth? (CSN Chicago)

SOCCER
-- The U.S. begins its final push for the 2014 World Cup today with a match in Honduras. (NBC's Pro Soccer Talk)

TENNIS
-- So far, so good on Rafael Nadal's comeback. (AP)

Bruins lose third straight with 4-1 loss to Leafs

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Bruins lose third straight with 4-1 loss to Leafs

BOSTON -- The Bruins’ season has gone in extreme swings both up and down thus far through the first couple of months, and that was the case as they lost their third game in a row to the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

The Bruins couldn’t only scratch for one goal despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by a 32-20 margin, and fell by a disappointing 4-1 score to the young and talented Toronto club at TD Garden.

The Bruins never enjoyed a lead in the game against the Leafs, and were flirting with danger after failing to score in the first period despite out-shooting Toronto by an 11-2 margin in the game’s opening 20 minutes. Instead it was a David Pastrnak neutral zone turnover in the second period that was picked off by William Nylander, and ended with Auston Matthews firing a rocket over Tuukka Rask for his 12th goal of the season.

Toronto extended the lead with five minutes to go in the period when Zach Hyman tipped a wobbly Jake Gardiner point shot past Rask, and made it three games in a row that the Bruins have dug themselves a considerable hole. Brad Marchand got one goal back at the end of the second period on a nice hustle play as he sealed off Frederik Anderson’s clearing attempt and then stuffed the puck past the Leafs goalie on a second chance bid.

That’s the way the score remained until the third period when the Bruins couldn’t convert on a couple of offensive chances -- included a bang-bang shorthanded bid for Austin Czarnik in front of the net -- and then James van Riemsdyk scored in front as a Toronto power play expired. That was the backbreaker for a Black and Gold bunch that continues to scrap for goals, and has now scored two goals or less in 20 of their 20 games this season.

Connor Brown added an empty netter in the final two minutes of the game to truly put it out of reach for the Bruins. 

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins mixed things up with their roster a bit on Saturday after dropping a couple of games in a row to Washington and Colorado. 

Fourth-line energy winger Noel Acciari and playmaking forward Danton Heinen were called up from Providence and will be in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Saturday night. 
Acciari went to Providence the past couple of days to get some game action in after missing the past month with a lower body injury, but clearly showed he’s ready to go. 

So, Acciari is back to provide the same hard-hitting and energy he showed before he was hurt and Heinen is looking to show off a little more offense than in his first stint with the Black and Gold this season. He’ll be featured in a top role as left wing with David Krejci and David Backes and with marching orders to shoot the puck like he never shot it in his previous stint in Boston. 

For the Bruins, it’s about getting another look at a candidate to play left wing beside Krejci with both Ryan Spooner and Tim Schaller, with limitations to their respective games, unable to fully grasp that same opportunity. 

“My hope is that Heinen can come in and give us some good hockey. He’s a skill player and he’s been down there for a while, and he’s back up again because he’s been playing well,” said Claude Julien of the Bruins rookie, who had four goals and seven points in his past five games with Providence. “Hopefully he can play well here also. It’s about getting some confidence. When he went down to [the AHL] the pace of his game had to get a little bit better, and in the battles coming up with the puck along the walls. Those are the kinds of things we thought he could work on down in Providence.”

Heinen knows he needs to shoot the puck a bit more to show off his offense after a seven-game stint with the Bruins where he went scoreless, was a minus-2 and had just six shots on net.

“Being hard on the walls, playing fast and shooting the puck, those were all things I was working on [in Providence],” said Heinen, who has seven goals and 13 points in 13 games for the P-Bruins after being assigned to Providence. “I was doing what they told me to do [in Providence] and that’s shoot the puck. They were going in, and I was getting some good opportunities on the power play. It’s seriously tough to get chances [at the NHL level], so you can’t pass them up when you have chances. That was kind of my focus down there.”

Fellow fourth-line energy winger Anton Blidh has been shipped to Providence after three solid games with the Black and Gold. 

Julien said Blidh goes back to Providence having adequately shown that he can play in the NHL. He clearly showed the Bruins that he understands his role as a player that stirs things up a bit and gets his nose dirty on a regular basis.

“[Blidh] was fine. No issues there. He does his job. He plays with lots of energy and obviously he’s getting more experience. He’s a lot better at understanding his positioning within the game and what he has to do,” said Julien. “I thought he helped us out for the time that he was here.”

With Heinen and Acciari both in the lineup and Blidh back in Providence, that means Jimmy Hayes will be scratched after dressing for three of the past four games for Boston.