Bruins play the waiting game

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Bruins play the waiting game

The Bruins are saying all the right things with the end of the regular season upon them.There are plenty of politically correct sound bytes about finishing things up strong with Game No. 82 still waiting for them Saturday afternoon against a Buffalo Sabres thats held a few grudges against the Black and Gold this season.

The chances of Ryan Miller and Milan Lucic exchanging Christmas cards this year is pretty much out the door, but thats a minor little Saturday afternoon sidelight before both teams go their separate paths during the postseason.

Boston will be jumping into a first round playoff series theyre expected to win, and Buffalo will be counting their regrets after missing the playoffs in a season many pundits including this one chose the Sabres as the Northeast Division favorite. With that in mindClaude Julien didnt believe for an instant that nothing-to-lose Buffalo was going to attempt to punish the Bruins for any perceived slights this season, but that possibility exists until the 60 minutes are up.

I expect a good game. When teams like Buffalo get eliminated you assume theyre throwing in the towel, but the one thing they can do in that last game is leave with a win. Thats as positive as it can get right now, said Claude Julien. They always play us well and strong, and I expect it to be a good game.

Youve got to give that coaching staff and that management plenty of credit. Theyre classy enough to keep from sending messages and going after a team simply because theyre out of the playoffs.

But the underlyinglack of focus on the Buffalo game comes freely for one particular reason: The Bruins have bigger fish to fry while waiting to learn their first round playoff opponent. Its between Washington and Ottawa with one final game for everybody on Saturday to decide their ultimate fate within the postseason.

Its a strange hockey limbo for the Bs players waiting to see who theyll be bringing on the hate against. For most players anyway: Rich Peverley said he could use another regular season tilt to fine tune his timing and readiness when the bodies start flying during the playoffs.

I havent been nearly as good as I can be. Maybe some other guys are getting anxious for the playoffs because it was a tough March for a lot of guys, said Peverley. But for me I can simply be much better.But most of the B's roster is battle-hardened and as ready as they're ever going to be for the playoffs -- they're like high school seniors just counting down the regular schooldays until graduation comes.

If the Senators take a single point from their game with New Jersey on Saturday afternoon then they lock up the No. 7 spot and a playoff date with the Bruins. That would be music to the ears of everybody around the Black and Gold.

If the Senators lose and the Capitals win then the Bruins will host Washington next week in the first round of the playoffs.

Its as simple as that with the Bruins hoping for the Senators after taking five-out-of-six against Ottawa this season including a snoozer of a hockey game Thursday night that ended in Boston victorywithout Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara or Patrice Bergeron dressing against the Senators.

The end of the regular season is so close and the Bruins have accomplished everything theyre going to prior to the playoffs, so Bostons players simply want to get on with the postseason. Of course the leaders within the Bruins dressing roomare staying on message, and talking about worrying about their executing their own game plan against whoever they play.

Were going to go out and play hard. Thats the most important thing for us: staying sharp and getting ready for Day one, said Brian Rolston. Were all excited to start the playoffs, but were also all excited about the way things are going."

But the quote was said with the robotic delivery and monotone voice of hockey players waiting for the best part of their seasons to begin. Make no mistake about it, the Bruins are scoreboard watching while waiting to see who shows up to play at the Garden Thursday night. The Bruins managed to pile up 100 points during the regular season and finish No. 2 in the Eastern Conference, but the entire regular season campaign has felt like a giant preamble to the Stanley Cup playoffs that awaits them next week.

In the playoffs you have to expect the unexpected. It doesnt matter what team youre playing against: whether its seventh or eighth place it doesnt matter, said Brad Marchand. You have to put your best foot forward.

Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas will all be back in the lineup against the Sabres for the Saturday afternoon finale, and it will be the Boston rosters final chance to get in some game action prior to the anticipated April 12 postseason opening for the Bostons home playoff games.

There are still plenty of chances for Boston to put their best foot forward, but it will be a whole lot easieronce they know who they'll be stepping on.

NFL combine preview: Tight ends

NFL combine preview: Tight ends

With the NFL combine about to begin -- and the NFL Draft just about two months away -- we'll take a daily look at the collegiate talent available at positions where the Patriots might be looking for help. We start today with: Tight ends.

On Tuesday, players will arrive in Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine, with on-field workouts beginning Friday. 

The second group to take the field is the tight end group, which should be worth watching for a number of reasons. For starters, Todd McShay says that this is “a good year to need a tight end” given that there could be three first-rounders in O.J. Howard, David Njoku and Jake Butt.

Furthermore, Martellus Bennett’s potential departure and Rob Gronkowski’s durability questions make tight end a position the Patriots could target early come April 27. 

Here’s a quick look at each of the 19 tight ends invited to the combine: 

O.J. Howard, Alabama, 6-foot-6, 249 pounds

- NFL.com describes him as an “exceptionally gifted athlete” and says that his “play speed resembles a wide receiver’s when the ball is in the air.” They add he “appears passive” as a blocker and “need more muscle and mass to be an in-line blocker as a pro.”

David Njoku, Miami, 6-foot-4, 245 pounds

- Not the biggest guy in the world at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, but is considered a top-end athlete. NFL.com says he “should annihilate the combine with monster numbers in speed and explosion.”

Jake Butt, Michigan, 6-foot-6, 250 pounds 

- Does everything well, but could stand to fill out his frame a bit more. 

Jordan Leggett, Clemson, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds

- Not considered a great blocker and has admitted that he’s played lazily. Could the Pats fix his motor? 

Gerald Everett, South Alabama, 6-foot-3, 227 pounds

- Very interesting prospect. Primarily a basketball player in high school who played just one year of football (insert Antonio Gates basketball reference), Everett played at Alabama-Birmingham before the school cut its football program. Upon transferring to South Alabama, Everett showed his skills as a pass-catching tight end. 

Evan Engram, Mississippi, 6-foot-3, 236 pounds

- Itty bitty for a tight end, and he doesn’t have the greatest hands either. Described as a “move tight end only who lacks dependability as a blocker.”   

He was one of five who for second in the nation among tight ends with eight touchdowns last season. Other guys in that group were Njoku, Hayden Plinke,  Cole Hikutini and UMass’ Adam Breneman.

Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech, 6-foot-7, 245 pounds

- Just your average quarterback-turned-tight-end. The lanky Hodges would be a good fit for the Patriots simply because it would give Julian Edelman a break from the constant mention during broadcasts that he used to be a QB. 

Cole Hikutini, Louisville, 6-foot-5, 248 pounds

- A good athlete who isn’t much of a blocker.

Adam Shaheen, Ashland, 6-foot-6, 277 pounds

- Former college basketball player transferred from Pittsburgh-Johnstown to Ashland to focus on football and eventually established himself as a dominant player at the Division II level. He’s certainly got the size and strength, but questions will persist about just how similarly he holds up going from Division II to the NFL. 

Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas, 6-foot-5, 265 pounds

- Big, physical tight end with a solid stiff arm. Sprinkle was suspended by Arkansas for the Belk Bowl because he stole from a Belk department store after each player had been given $450 to spend there. He was arrested for the incident, as he stole $260 worth of extra items.

Pharoh Brown, Oregon, 6-foot-6, 245 pounds

- Not considered the athlete he was prior to a 2014 injury that nearly resulted in his leg being amputated. 

Michael Roberts, Toledo, 6-foot-4, 261 pounds

- Huge hands, which he uses to catch better than block. He led all FBS tight ends with 16 touchdowns last season. 

Jonnu Smith, Florida International, 6-foot-3, 245 pounds

- College career was ended prematurely when his pregnant girlfriend poured boiling water on him, resulting in severe burns throughout his upper body, including his head. He has good speed, but drops were an issue in college. 

Scott Orndoff, Pittsburgh, 6-foot-5, 256 pounds

- Figures to be a solid blocking tight end, but he also had five receiving touchdowns as a senior. 

Eric Saubert, Drake, 6-foot-5, 251 pounds

- Every draft pick is a gamble, but Saubert might be more so than others. An AFC regional scout says that Saubert is “body beautiful but he can’t catch. I don’t think it’s correctable, either.”

Cethan Carter, Nebraska, 6-foot-4, 240 pounds

- Elbow injuries figure to be a topic at the combine, and he had various injuries throughout his college career. 

Darrell Daniels, Washington, 6-foot-4, 246 pounds

- A scout told NFL.com that Daniels is "going to test through the roof and he's going to get overdrafted on the traits.” The Patriots don’t typically fall into such traps. 

George Kittle, Iowa, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds

- Only had one drop as a senior, but then again being believed to have had no drops in college doesn’t make a guy an NFL stud. 

Hayden Plinke, UTEP, 6-foot-4, 265 pounds

- Transferred twice in his college career, starting at Boise State, then Portland State and finally UTEP. Is considered a good blocker who grabbed eight touchdowns as a senior. 
 

Haggerty's Morning Skate: Two AHL teams recreate Slap Shot on the movie's anniversary

Haggerty's Morning Skate: Two AHL teams recreate Slap Shot on the movie's anniversary

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while so glad to see Dave Strader getting the play-by-play call in this afternoon’s national NBC broadcast of Stars and Bruins from Dallas.
 
-- Jeremy Roenick weighs in with some trade possibilities involving Avalanche and Blues players in what could be a blockbuster at the deadline.
 
-- Antoine Vermette acknowledges his wrongdoing in making a statement about his 10-game suspension for slashing an official, but feels like the punishment was too severe.
 
-- Don Cherry wishes a happy 40th anniversary to Slap Shot while wearing a Charleston Chiefs jersey as he hosts Coaches Corner.
 
-- Speaking of Slap Shot, what an Old Time Hockey fight between the AHL's Iowa Wild and Chicago Wolves. It spilled into the hallway afterward . . . that’s when things get real.

-- I've been asked multiple times about the white Boston hat David Pastrnak is always wearing in the Bruins dressing room, so here it is.

 -- Here’s all the Dallas Stars info you need ahead of this afternoon’s 11:30 a.m. local start in Dallas for the Stars and Bruins.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning indicating that the mumps outbreak for his team won’t impact the trade deadline.
 
-- For something completely different: the headline seems a little click baity to me, but I’ll read about anything involving Homer Simpson and the Baseball Hall of Fame.