Celtics prepare for daunting week of games

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Celtics prepare for daunting week of games

BOSTON There have been many descriptions of this upcoming schedule for the Boston Celtics which includes five games in six nights, in five different cities.

Brutal. Challenging. Grueling.

Here's another one fun!

Fun?

"I think it'll be fun," said Boston's Avery Bradley who says he's never played in a stretch of games like this. "We love the game of basketball. We're already getting ourselves mentally prepared for it."

The best way to do that is to simply win games in less-than-desirable scenarios, something the C's have been able to do during their current four game winning streak.

On Saturday, they went into Indiana and beat a Pacers team that's playing some of their best basketball now and are one of the teams Boston (34-24) is trying to catch up to and surpass in the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics followed that victory with a blowout win at home the following night against a Philadelphia team that's right on their heels in the Atlantic Division.

As impressive as those two wins were, they pale in comparison to the Celtics' 115-107 win at Miami, a game in which the Heat delivered a slew of big blows to the Celtics all night, only for the Celtics to counter with a 1-2 punch of their own that was even more powerful. If the C's make the kind of deep playoff run they're hoping for, Tuesday's win over Miami might be viewed as the turning point in which Boston went from a team that was playing well, to one that has to be considered a legit contender to come out of the Eastern Conference.

With that kind of success, the C's appeared to be in good shape for a major letdown Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks. Boston was playing their fourth game in five nights, while the Hawks had not played in a game since Saturday.

There was no way to avoid mental fatigue becoming an issue for the Celtics. But to their credit, they managed to overcome it and for the most part, keep the game against the Hawks relatively close which afterward, Rivers said was the game plan coming in.

"We didn't play well," Rivers said. "I mean, we just kept hanging in there. You could see the fatigue."

Fatigue or not, Boston still managed to grind out an 88-86 overtime victory which was maybe the most impressive victory during this current winning streak when you consider the caliber of opponent, what was at stake (winning the head-to-head series) and the fact that Boston was coming off a hard-fought win at Miami just 24 hours earlier while the Hawks had not played since Saturday.

And now, the C's move on for road games at Toronto on Friday, New Jersey on Saturday and Charlotte on Sunday. After that, the C's face New York on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden and come home the following night to host the Orlando Magic.

Players are well aware that this upcoming stretch of games will go far in determining where they eventually wind up in terms of playoff seeding.

"Wish I could tell you what to expect, because I don't know," Rivers said. "I don't talk about it, don't mention it to our guys. We don't even talk about it with our staff."

With so many games congested together - not just this stretch, but this entire NBA season - it doesn't do much good to look too far down the road.

"We go one at a time," Rivers said. "That's the way you have to approach this season."

Video: Chara hits practice goalie in groin

Video: Chara hits practice goalie in groin

BRIGHTON, Mass -- Life as an emergency practice goalie can be pretty rough.

Take, for instance, Mass State Trooper Keith Segee, who has suited up a couple of times for the Boston Bruins this season during times of need, and did exactly that during Wednesday’s optional practice for the Black and Gold.

Segee got caught with a Zdeno Chara cranked slap shot right in the family jewels, and then had to walk…er, crawl it off like any normal human being would after getting bombed by a guy that can shoot it 108-mph.

“He’s got the hardest shot of anybody I’ve ever seen,” said Segee, with a smile. “I had to take two or three laps around the rink after that one and skate it off.”

Give Chara credit for moving right over to Segee and giving him a tap on the backside for skating it off, and risking life, limb and perhaps a lot more to stop a few pucks for the Black and Gold.

Segee played at Revere High and Salem State College before joining the Mass State Police, and got the emergency gig through Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa when Boston needed a practice goalie at the end of last week in Tuukka Rask’s absence.

Let’s hope Segee is okay at this point, or the Bruins captain could be looking at a few more moving violations in his future. 

Wednesday, March 29: Oilers back in the playoffs

Wednesday, March 29: Oilers back in the playoffs

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while gearing up for the last couple of weeks.

*The Edmonton Oilers will return to the Stanley Cup playoffs this season as it looks like Canada will be well-represented once again after last year’s absence.

*Let’s meet the man behind the push to bring the NHL to China, and introduce the game to billions of people.

*Eric Staal is enjoying his second act with the Minnesota Wild, and even better he’s totally flourishing there as well.

*Let’s hear it for the US Women’s team that stuck to their guns and got an unprecedented deal with USA Hockey that will allow them to focus on winning for the next four years.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has Steve Stamkos “really close” to a return for the Tampa Bay Lightning, in a concerning development for the Boston Bruins’ playoff hopes.

*Apparently things are getting a little heightened with the Los Angeles Kings as some of their prominent players skipped a media session in Calgary.

*For something completely different: Let’s hear it for the best news of the day, the Cash Cab is coming back.