Faulk is training to come back and play


Faulk is training to come back and play

PROVIDENCE -- Kevin Faulk had some news to break while visiting Hasbro Children's Hospital in Rhode Island on Thursday afternoon.

"I'm training to come back and play," he told reporters. "But it's not up to me, it's up to the team and everything. But I am planning on coming back to play. So we'll see what happens."
"Everyone says you don't have anything to prove, which I don't. I don't play the game of football to prove anything to anyone. I play the game of football because I love it.... It took me a while to make a decision, but I felt like I needed it this time.... I've been blessed to be able, in my eyes, play for one of the best organizations in the NFL. To have that opportunity to be able to play again -- I wanted to give myself the time and thought to think about it. And I thought about it and I knew what my heart it; it's always been with the Patriots."
Faulk, 35, entertained ideas of retiring after he did not dress for the Patriots' Super Bowl loss to the Giants.
"I'm human. I was stressing," he admitted. "Not playing as much as I did before last year... that kind of weighed into my factor of, 'Is it time for me to let it go?' But in my mind I still knew that I could play the game of football.
"Coming back last year, I don't think it was me physically, playing the game, I think it was more for me mentally. And when I say mentally, if you've been playing the game as long as I have at the same speed for the New England Patriots, everything has to be perfect. You have to be perfect. And last year it didn't feel that way for me at all, until toward the end of the season. But at that point in time it was too late because our team was already developed."
What's changed? His knee, for one. Faulk said he's encouraged by the progress his body is making which, in turn, impacts his attitude.
"It's totally different than a year ago at this time. I feel like it's back to where it was. I feel like it is back to where it was at some point during the season last year. Like I said, mentally I wasn't there. Every aspect of the game wasn't there for me last year through the course of the season."
Faulk is a free agent so the fact that he's willing to return doesn't necessarily mean that he will. The Patriots (or another team) would still have to be willing to give him a job.

"I just pray to God, let him take care of it. Today, y'all going to blast it out, so they're going to hear it," he laughed.
Indeed, Faulk seemed at peace with his decision and what may -- or may not -- come of it.
"If it doesn't come, it doesn't come; I'm content with it. That's another part of the decision I had to make, that if a phone call doesn't come from the New England Patriots, are you ready for that? Yes, I am."

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line


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.