Wakeup Call: Season's over for Karlsson

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Wakeup Call: Season's over for Karlsson

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Friday, February 15:

AUTO RACING
When Michael Waltrip drives in the Daytona 500, he'll have a new car number -- 26 -- in honor of the 20 children and 6 adults killed in Newtown, Conn. (AP)

Nice to see that the Gronk of NASCAR, Brad Keselowski, hasn't mellowed any since the end of last season. (AP)

I'd be willing to wager almost anything that Danica Patrick yesterday became the first race driver ever to reference The Bard in a press conference. (AP)

Having seen 78-year-olds drive on the highway, I have to think James Hylton is making the right decision. (AP)

BASEBALL
Youk to the media: Enough with the Joba stuff, already. (AP)

Ah, the dreaded visa issue! Hey, at least Rafael Soriano didn't say it was his father's birthday. Or that his grandmother died. (CSN Washington)

Looks like the PED Police tracked down Gio Gonzalez as soon as his name surfaced in the Miami New Times report. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

Meanwhile, Danny Valencia's going the I-never-heard-of-that-clinicI-don't-take-PEDsI-have-no-idea-how-I-popped-up-on-that-list route. (CSN Baltimore)

It's spring, and all's bright -- even the Phillies' championship chances -- in Ryan Howard's world. (CSN Philly)

Looks like Mike Trout didn't skimp on those six-hamburger meals at Jim's Lunch this winter; he reported to Angels camp at 240 pounds. (Hardball Talk)

The A's are looking internally for a temporary closer upon learning that Grant Balfour will be sidelined 4-6 weeks because of a meniscus tear . . . though I don't quite understand why they need a closer for exhibition games. (CSN Bay Area)

If they decide to look outside, Jason Isringhausen says he's available. (Hardball Talk)

Not Chad Cordero, though. He signed with the Angels. (CSN Washington)

Not exactly hard time, is it, Mark Grace? (Hardball Time)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Nobody knew Jim Boeheim was feuding with ESPN's Andy Katz prior to Syracuse's loss at Connecticut on Wednesday. But they sure know it now. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

You can probably cancel those NCAA travel plans, Temple fans, after the Owls' stunning loss to Duquesne last night. (CSN Philly)

No. 13 Ohio State avoids a stunning loss of its own with a 12-0 run at the end of the game for a 69-59 victory over Northwestern, whom they've now beaten 32 straight times in Columbus. (AP)

Can't really call it all that stunning, but Minnesota knocks off No. 20 Wisconsin. (College Basketball Talk)

Colorado gets its revenge on Arizona. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
All that talk about Jadeveon Clowney sitting out the 2013 season to protect his status for the 2014 draft? Forget it, says Steve Spurrier. (AP)

The NCAA says no to Jamoris Slaugher's attempt to return for a sixth year at Notre Dame. (AP)

GOLF
Matt Kuchar holds the first-round lead in the Northern Trust Open. (AP)

And Mariajo Uribe holds the second-round lead in the Women's Australian Open. (AP)

HOCKEY
It's official: Erik Karlsson's season is over. (AP)

So's Manny Malholtra's. (AP)

Daniel Carcillo, meanwhile, is determined that a second knee injury in two years isn't going to end his. (CSN Chicago)

The Devils just keep on truckin', don't they? (AP)

One of the teams favored to dethrone New Jersey in the East, the Rangers, lose to the Islanders in a shootout. (AP)

And they do so without the slumping Brad Richards, whom coach John Tortorella benched in the third period. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

That's three in a row in the good column for the Capitals, and six in a row in the bad column for the Lightning. (AP)

Still no word on whether NHL players will be allowed to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics . . . (AP)

. . . but Capitals coach Adam Oates -- who says he "didn't even know" Team Canada existed when he was growing up -- hopes the answer is 'no'. (Pro Hockey Talk)

OLYMPICS
Oscar Pistorius is being charged with "premeditated murder" in the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. (nbcsports.com)

As you would expect, companies that employed Pistorius as a sponsor are backing away from him as fast as they can. (NBC's Off The Bench)

PRO BASKETBALL
LeBron James' stathead streak -- consecutive games with 30 or more points on 60 percent or better shooting -- came to an end last night when he missed a 3-pointer with a minute to go and the Heat up by 10. He'll have to be satisfied with Miami's 110-100 takedown of the Thunder in a rematch of last year's finals. (AP)

For Michael Jordan, the rings are the thing in the LeBron-vs.-Kobe debate. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

The Clippers make it clear who owns L.A. (AP)

According to the Los Angeles Times, Lakers owner Jerry Buss has been hospitalized with cancer. (AP)

Playing in your first All-Star Game, in your team's home city, is a thrill for any player. But James Harden may have to miss it because of the ankle injury he suffered Tuesday. (CSN Bay Area)

PRO FOOTBALL
Pressure is building again for the Redskins to change their nickname, but GM Bruce Allen says a) that's not happening and b) it's "ludicrous" to think that the team is trying to offend Native Americans. (AP)

Even though it looks like Andy Reid wants to bring Nick Foles with him to the Kansas City . . . (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

. . . that's not happening, either. (CSN Philly)

If you're trying to figure out whether or not the Bears intend to keep Brian Urlacher, you'll get no clues from the team's new coaching staff. (CSN Chicago)

Terrence McGee calls it "definitely a difficult day" as the Bills cut him loose after 10 years. (AP)

SOCCER
The soccer aficionados give a tepid thumb's up to Gus Johnson's first call of a Champions League match. (NBC's Pro Soccer Talk)

TENNIS
Serena Williams thinks it's "awesome" that she's one win away from becoming the oldest women's player ever to be ranked No. 1. (AP)

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova is using the "I didn't know a banned substance was in a supplement I was taking" argument to explain her six-month ban by the ITF for doping. (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.