Wakeup Call: If Bill Belichick were a jerk, he'd be John Tortorella

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Wakeup Call: If Bill Belichick were a jerk, he'd be John Tortorella

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Monday, February 18:

AUTO RACING
Of all the congratulations Danica Patrick received for becoming the first woman to win the pole at the Daytona 500, the one that may mean the most to her came from Janet Guthrie, who broke NASCAR's gender barrier in 1976. (AP)

A look at Patrick down through the years. (nbcsports.com)

BASEBALL
Despite an "absolutely terrible" offseason spent recovering from a broken ankle that he says he probably could have avoided had he not tried to play through pain, Derek Jeter vows to be ready for Opening Day. (AP)

Just be ready for April 24, Derek. You don't want to miss "Joe Maddon Gnome Bobblehead Night" at The Trop. (NBC's Off The Bench)

Whenever you do come back, Jose Reyes will be waiting. (CSN Baltimore)

Todd Helton apologizes and asks for forgiveness after his DUI arrest. (AP)

Paul Konerko realizes this may be his last go-round in the big leagues, but says he's ready for life after baseball. (AP)

Freddy Sanchez? At the end of the line? Wasn't it just yesterday he was the big Sox prospect in Pawtucket? (CSN Bay Area)

If you had Day One in the Matt Garza Injury Pool, congratulations! (CSN Chicago)

Yes, yes, that's Chipper Jones in Braves camp. No, no, he's not coming back. (AP)

Nick Swisher returns to the Indians after attending his mother's funeral. (AP)

Roger Clemens says he's "been friends" with, and "had some good times" with, Mike Piazza. With friends like that . . . (AP)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
The legend of Marshall Henderson continues to grow. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

A win is a win is a win, right, Jim Larranaga? Especially one that gets you to 12-0 in the ACC. (AP)

Don't be surprised if No. 20 Wisconsin and No. 13 Ohio State flop positions in the new AP poll today after the Badgers' 22-point thumping of the Buckeyes. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Ken Clark, one of the Nebraska's top all-time rushers, dies of a heart attack at age 46. (AP)

GOLF
Tiger Woods tunes up for this week's Match Play Championship by playing a round with President Obama. (AP)

When gets there, he'll be seeded second behind Rory McIlroy. (AP)

This weekend's winners: John Merrick at Riviera . . . (AP)

. . . Jiyai Shin in the Australian Women's Open . . . (AP)

. . . and Bernard Langer on the Champions Tour. (AP)

HOCKEY
You think Bill Belichick is bad? Try asking John Tortorella a question. (CSN Washington)

The Blackhawks beat the Kings and are now one away from tying the 2006-07 Ducks' record for consecutive games at the beginning of a season without a loss. (CSN Chicago)

The Blues follow a winless home stand with an undefeated road trip. (AP)

The Wild top the Red Wings for their first regulation victory since Jan. 29. (AP)

The Canadiens' rookie sensation, Brendan Gallagher, is out indefinitely because of a concussion. (AP)

The AHL game between Springfield and Adirondack is suspended in the second period when the Falcons' Wade MacLeod, a Columbus farmhand and ex-Northeastern player, suffers a seizure after being checked into the glass. MacLeod is reported to be stable and alert at a Springfield hospital. (AP)

PRO BASKETBALL
At long last, a Clipper is named MVP of the All-Star Game. (AP)

The injured James Harden not only gets to play in his hometown All-Star Game, but he scores 15 points and has some fun, to boot. (CSN Houston)

Kobe to LeBron: Get that stuff outta here. Twice! (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

The NBA All-Stars play Marilyn Monroe to Michael Jordan's President Kennedy. (AP)

Jerry Colangelo on Deron Williams: I meant physically unfit, for God's sake! (AP)

PRO FOOTBALL
A team-by-team look at the candidates for the dreaded franchise tag. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

Alec Ogletree's recent DUI arrest, coming less than a year after his positive drug test, may be a boon for the Ravens. (Pro Football Talk)

TENNIS
Rafael Nadal's comeback is complete: He wins the Brazil Open. (AP)

Victoria Azarenka ends her 10-match losing streak against Serena Williams as she posts a 7-6, 2-6, 6-3 victory in the finals of the Qatar Open. (AP)

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.