Bruins work to improve power play

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Bruins work to improve power play

WILMINGTON, Mass. Its no big surprise the Bruins spent much of Friday mornings 30-minute practice at Ristuccia Arena working on their power play.

The Bruins are 2-for-17 in their last seven games on the man advantage and really fell short in their 1-0 shutout loss to the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night, when they failed on four occasions.

So the entire practice amounted to PP 101 for the Bruins players, and Julien continued flirting with different combos that could potentially spark the special teams unit.

One less-than-perfect circumstance at practice: Zdeno Chara was given a maintenance day on Friday. So the Bs were without their biggest power-play weapon while working on refinements, and all phases of the unit were addressed. Sloppy entries, chaotic formations in the offensive zone and a lacking work ethic have all been issues for the Black and Gold over the last couple of weeks, and are right in lockstep with the rest of the offensive struggles for Boston.

Theyre still 13th in the NHL with an 18 percent success rate this year, but theres clearly some work to do.

Were really fighting with the execution, said coach Claude Julien. I just find that what should be an easy pass is turning into a tough pass. In the New Jersey game we had a power play in the final minute of the period and I know the ice wasnt great but those D-to-D passes were going over sticks and out of the zone.

Simple passes werent there, so execution is certainly one of those things. We talk about wanting good net-front presence and shots to get through, but the biggest thing thats sticking out to me is execution. Youve got to execute those good, simple passes and make the plays under pressure.

David Krejci, Joe Corvo and Tyler Seguin all had only one power-play point in 13 games during the month of February, so there are individuals that can clearly step it up on the man advantage. The Bruins are keenly aware.

We just need to get crisper passes and work at getting our confidence back up on the PP, said Johnny Boychuk, who has actually been off the power play for the last few months.

The Bruins will be back to work getting the power play untracked with weekend games against each of the New York teams beginning at home against the Islanders on Saturday afternoon.

Five things to look for from the NFL annual meetings this week

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Five things to look for from the NFL annual meetings this week

PHOENIX -- Bill Belichick may not be speaking with the media here this week, but there will be plenty for us to examine at the annual league meetings. 

Reporters were informed via a team spokesperson that the Patriots coach would not be in attendance at the AFC coaches breakfast Tuesday morning -- where in the past orange juice has been sipped and tape recorders have been bulldozed -- due to a scouting conflict. 

The breakfast is not mandatory for coaches so for Belichick to use his time at a college pro day (Florida, Texas and Iowa State all have theirs scheduled for Tuesday) or a private workout comes as little surprise. He's been busy on the Trail of Due Diligence in recent weeks, making visits to Vanderbilt, Ohio State and Michigan in order to get a closer look at prospects.

Five weeks behind, remember? No days off. 

Patriots owner Robert Kraft is planning to meet with reporters on Monday so we'll have an opportunity to hear from him on a variety of topics when that comes to pass. 

Here are some of the other Patriots-related stories we'll be doing some digging on this week as we keep you updated with blog posts, occasional television hits, tweets (@PhilAPerry), Instagram shots (@PhilAPerry), and maybe even a podcast or two.

* What does the rest of the league think when it sees the way the Patriots have attacked this offseason? How will the new pieces fit? Do other coaches and executives see it as Belichick going all in on 2017? Or is this just a case of a team adhering to its motto of doing "what's best for the football team" -- both in the short and long-term?

* What's next for the Patriots? They're not done building the roster so where might they turn next? Will they add other lower-level free agents? Will they be looking to trade back into the first and second rounds? Which positions seem to be of interest to them in the draft, and how might that signal the direction this roster is headed?

* What is the feeling on the future at the quarterback position in New England? We know the Patriots aren't looking to give away Jimmy Garoppolo, but do people around the league really feel as though a haul of draft picks really won't get the Patriots to think twice about trading him? Is it possible that in this rare scenario -- where the franchise quarterback is playing at an MVP-level but headed into his 40-year-old season -- people could see the Patriots paying two passers a starter's salary?

* Will anything happen with Malcolm Butler before the meetings are out? Some have speculated that if his status as a restricted free agent (with an unsigned first-round tender) is to change anytime soon, it could happen here, where presumably his agent will be able to hear offers from one or more clubs in person. Will Butler find a team willing to give him an offer sheet and relinquish its first-round pick to the Patriots? Or will he sign his tender -- whether it's with the intent to play for the Patriots in 2017, or to be traded?

* Rules changes are coming. We just don't know which ones. Will the linebacker leap (executed by Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin under Belichick) be eliminated? Will Stephen Gostkowski soon be looking to blast kickoffs through the uprights due to the passing of a rule that would place the ball at the 20 as opposed to the 25 for such a feat? Will real-time replay decisions suddenly shift from the officials on the field to the NFL offices at 345 Park Avenue? We'll let you know which proposals are held up, which fall flat, and how the Patriots might be impacted. Belichick and his staff did not submit any proposals for the second consecutive year.

Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

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Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while waiting for the next wave of announcements that the Bruins have signed college players out of the NCAA tournament.
 
-- Former Wild goaltender Josh Harding is finding his way after his MS diagnosis forced him out of the NHL prematurely.

-- Young D-man Seth Jones is becoming the “hoss” defenseman that the Blue Jackets will need come playoff time.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Wild coach Bruce Boudreau calling a loss to the Canucks “embarrassing” as the hard times continue for Minnesota.  

-- Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney is ready to step up for the Leafs after they lost Frederik Andersen to injury.
 
-- Old friend David Warsofsky has been recalled from the AHL and will be with the Penguins as crunch time hits ahead of the playoffs.

-- USA Hockey is now reportedly reaching out to rec league and former Division III women’s hockey players to find a replacement roster for the world championships as the USA women continues their boycott.
 
-- For something completely different: We have an honest-to-goodness think piece about pulling the “Irish Exit.” Well, okay then.