Pietrus confident Celtics can make run at Banner 18

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Pietrus confident Celtics can make run at Banner 18

NEW YORK Back when he was the new guy, Mickael Pietrus talked about the Boston Celtics as being a great team this year that would turn their fortunes around in the second half of the season and make a run at Banner 18.

The Celtics have quite a ways to go before that can be more than just optimistic chatter, but there's no question the C's are a lot closer to being the team Pietrus-tradamus envisions with the playoffs just a couple weeks away.

"Nobody wants to play us in the playoffs," Pietrus said. "We have to stay focused on what we have to do, what we have to do to get ready for the playoffs. We're ready. Everybody's mindset is playoffs right now and make sure everybody get into a good rhythm."

He added, "we want to make the fans happy. We want to get that Banner, for me the first time, for the guys, the second. I'm very excited to be a Celtic. I'm very excited to be here right now."

Pietrus' play will be important for the Celtics to indeed make the kind of playoff push that he and many of his teammates are looking for.

After suffering a concussion on March 23, Pietrus is gradually getting his legs back under him.

Just as important, the C's need him to re-establish some type of consistency with his perimeter game that he displayed prior to the injury.

As much as Boston will look to him to provide some tough, gritty man-to-man defense, they will also need him to help stretch defenses when he's on the floor.

Since returning from his concussion, Pietrus is averaging seven points while shooting 31.3 percent from the field and 23.8 percent on 3s. He's also hauling down 4.8 rebounds.

Prior to the concussion, he averaged 6.8 points while shooting 39.5 percent from the field and 35.5 percent on 3s. He didn't do much on the boards back then, grabbing just 2.9 per game.

Pietrus isn't worried about his struggles of late.

"I haven't played for three weeks," he said. "My rhythm is not going to come the first or second game. It's going to take time. Hopefully I'll have enough games to get ready for the playoffs. I'm very excited about it, to get more games under my legs to get wind and try to feel good before the playoffs."

The Celtics are certainly a better team with Ray Allen, who has missed the last four games due to swelling in his right ankle - the same injury that sidelined him for six games earlier. But the one positive in Allen's absence has been the opportunity it has afforded Pietrus to play more minutes and thus, get closer to regaining the shooting touch he displayed prior to missing 10 games with a Grade-3 concussion.

In the four games Pietrus has played since being cleared by the NBA and Celtics medical staff - all with Allen out with his ankle injury - Pietrus has averaged 28.3 minutes per game. Prior to his injury, he averaged 21.3 minutes played per game.

Regardless of how he's shooting the ball, Pietrus has picked up defensively where he left off which bodes well for a team that prides itself on stellar play at that end of the floor.

"To win games, you have to be able to play Celtics defense," Pietrus said. "That's why we were able to turn it around the second part of the season, because of our defense."

And if the C's continue on that path, Pietrus-tradamus' vision may just in fact become a reality.

"That's what it's all about, Banner 18," Pietrus said. 'We got a couple games left. We're going to make sure our priorities are team-first, and everything look good before playoffs."

Hogan on facing his ex-Bills teammates: ‘Like it’s any other game’

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Hogan on facing his ex-Bills teammates: ‘Like it’s any other game’

FOXBORO – Sunday isn’t some “I’ll show them!” game for Chris Hogan. The Buffalo Bills didn’t give up on Hogan last March. They just weren’t going to extend themselves financially the way the Patriots did.

Hogan, a restricted free agent, was lured to New England by the team’s three-year, $12 million contract offer that had $7.5 million guaranteed. Buffalo, which had no cap space, made it clear before the deadline to match the Patriots offer even expired that they couldn’t keep Hogan.

So now, Buffalo enters Sunday’s game without injured wideouts Sammy Watkins and Greg Salas and must resign itself to watching Hogan run around as an opponent.

“I’m just preparing for the game just like it’s any other game,” Hogan said Friday when asked about the matchup. “[Division] opponent so it’s a big game for us. They’re going to come in here pretty excited. There’s going to be a lot of intensity out there.

“Those guys [the Bills] are all my friends still, but we’re playing a game now,” said Hogan. “Once that whistle blows, 60 minutes, I’m going to be playing football. Afterwards we can talk and do all that. My focus is on doing my job and taking advantage of all my opportunities on Sunday.”

Earlier this week, Rex Ryan spoke glowingly of Hogan, who has eight catches for 122 yards and a touchdown so far.

“It was definitely tough to lose him,” Ryan said Wednesday on a conference call. “We didn’t want to. The thing about Chris is he’s a tough guy, he’s a good receiver and things, but the thing that also impressed me is this guy, he did everything that was asked of him. From being a special-teams player and obviously being a wideout, being in the slot, being outside.”

Hogan has eight catches for 122 yards and a touchdown so far.

“It doesn’t surprise me the type of success he’s having, because he’s really a good football player,” said Ryan. “And when you look at him as an athlete, here’s a big-time lacrosse player who then decides he’s going to play one year of football [in college] and now is in the National Football League. He’s a pretty special talent.”

Hogan acknowledged Ryan’s praise, saying, “Anytime someone pays you a compliment, as a head coach in this league, you obviously take that. That meant a lot to me, especially coming from him. I will be forever grateful to them, that organization. They gave me my first chance. That’s where I really kind of made my, started my career. I was there for four years. I established a lot of relationships with those guys and to this day still do. I will always look back on my career and that’s where I started.”

Bruins looking forward to getting World Cup teammates, coach back

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Bruins looking forward to getting World Cup teammates, coach back

BRIGHTON, Mass. – With the World Cup of Hockey and Team Canada crowned as champions, the final few Bruins players involved in the international hockey tournament will be filtering back into regular training camp.

It was a brilliant tourney for Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, especially while forming the World Cup’s best forward line with Sidney Crosby. Marchand was one of the leading scorers and had the clutch game-winner in the decisive game.

As a line they combined for a ridiculous 25 points in six games and it was Marchand who scored a couple of the biggest goals in the biggest games against Russia and Team Europe.

“They did it all of last season for us, so I’m not shocked. They played well throughout the entire time they played there, so I’m really happy for them,” said Ryan Spooner. “It’s been kind of a weird camp. We’ve been missing a lot of guys, and to get all of those guys back is huge. They’re the leaders of the team, so to get them back is good.

“Marchand around the room is a funny guy, so he’s definitely missed. We miss them all.”

Zdeno Chara was a force for the surprising rag-tag group of players on Team Europe and led them to the best-of-three final series against Team Canada. Now that it’s over, the B’s teammates are looking forward to all three joining fellow World Cup participants Tuukka Rask, David Pastrnak and David Backes at camp probably at some point next week.

“It does [feel like training camp], but it will be nice to get those guys back,” said Adam McQuaid. “They are big parts of this team. We’re looking forward to having those guys back, for sure.”

That also includes getting their coach, Claude Julien, back as well after missing his presence while he served behind the Canadian bench with Mike Babcock and Barry Trotz. He’ll be rejoining the Bruins over the next couple of days, and getting through preseason road games against Detroit and Philadelphia before making some tough decisions on cuts at main training camp.

That’s when things will officially start getting back to normal for a training camp that’s felt like something was a little missing over the first few weeks of getting ready for the season.