Haggerty's Bruins-Capitals Game 4 preview

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Haggerty's Bruins-Capitals Game 4 preview

WASHINGTON Things could get a lot bumpier for the Bruins and Capitals based on the personnel being employed by Washington coach Dale Hunter.

The Capitals will be moving bruising, fighting defenseman John Erskine in place of Jeff Schultz in the Washington lineup, and everybody knows that Erskine has a history with Milan Lucic.

The Washington tough guy dropped Lucic to the ice with a right hand back in 2008 when the Bs power forward was a 19-year-old rookie in the NHL. Erskine should bring the kind of tough vibe that the Capitals are looking for in Game 4.

"Erskine brings a sense of humbleness to the other team, said Washington defenseman Mike Green. And thats what we need.

The Capitals will also go with 39-year-old war horse Mike Knuble, who can still battle and utilize his big body around the net for loose pucks in the battle areas. With both veterans in the lineup, it appears the Capitals will respond to the bullying tone that the Bruins set while taking Game 3, and grasping a 2-1 series lead in the process.

The Bruins are properly motivated to leave Washington with another win and go up by a commanding 3-1 lead in the series but theres little doubt the Capitals are going to through their hardest punches at the Black and Gold on Thursday night.

Were a team that needs to be physical to have success. We need to play hard and be first on the puck. Tonight is no different and we need to bring that, said Patrice Bergeron. Were expecting a hard game and a tough game. Thats exactly what Washington has given us in the first three games of the series. Its a big game for us. We need to find a way to get on top.

There are many that say Game 4 is the most important victory or defeat in a seven-game series and both teams will be loaded for bare when the puck drops at the Verizon Center.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED -- Tyler Seguin has no points in three games against the Capitals, but he did show a noticeable uptick in willingness to battle in Game 3 against the Capitals. Seguin now has a 14-game goal-scoring drought in the playoffs after his big explosion during last years Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he appears to be going through the normal adjustment period for a young player. It took Stamkos almost the entire postseason to get into midseason form last year, so Seguin isnt in bad company. But the Bruins could certainly use his offense.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME -- I don't know. I don't care . . ." David Krejci when asked if the Capitals will use Nick Backstroms suspension as a rallying point in Game 4.

KEY MATCHUP -- Everybody will be watching to see if tough guy defenseman John Erskine will drop them with Milan Lucic now that hell be playing in his first game since Feb. 12 for the Capitals. Erskine has twice fought Lucic in his career and got the better of No. 17 during their bout during the Boston power forwards rookie season.

STAT TO WATCH -- 0-for-11: That's the Bs power play after three games, which is on track to match last years 0-for-21 during their first round series against the Montreal Canadiens.

INJURIES -- Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) is working out with the team and close to a return. Nathan Horton (mild concussion) has been shut down for the postseason. Adam McQuaid (headeye) has missed six of the last seven games with an upper body injury and didnt make the trip to Washington DC. Washington goaltenders Michal Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun were both on the ice Wednesday. Neuvirth could be close to returning, but Vokoun said he doesn't know when he can come back from what he deemed a significant groin tear.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP -- Still a series with superb goaltending even though the score was a little higher in Game 3. Tim Thomas made the save of the game in the third period when he stoned Jay Beagle just in front of the net to protect a 2-2 tie that eventually became a 4-3 victory for the Bruins. Brad Holtby looked a little more human with a couple of rebounds allowed in Game 3 once the Bruins achieved traffic in front of the net, but hes still boasting a 1.77 goals against average and a .942 save percentage in three games for the Caps.

What will it be like when Goodell shows up in Foxboro?

What will it be like when Goodell shows up in Foxboro?

Tom E. Curran in the Cumberland Farms lounge joins Sports Tonight to discuss what he thinks it will be like when Roger Goodell attends the Patriots home opener on September 7.

Burkhead's former running backs coach: 'He's going to flourish' with Patriots

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Burkhead's former running backs coach: 'He's going to flourish' with Patriots

PHOENIX -- Rex Burkhead was buried on a deep running back depth chart in Cincinnati, but in New England he may finally have a chance to show his offensive value. That's how Burkhead's former running backs coach and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson feels, at least.

Before he was hired as Browns head coach last season, Jackson worked closely with Burkhead for three years and saw the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder's versatile skill set on a daily basis. With the Patriots, under Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, Jackson believes Burkhead has a chance to see that skill set maximized. 

"He's very talented," Jackson said during the league meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. "He's a guy that was playing behind some very talented players [with the Bengals], and so he's going to get his opportunity now, and he's going to flourish. He's a really good player. A really good player.

"He's very versatile because he's a good runner, a good pass-catcher. He's a good blocker. He's very bright. He's been a sensational special teams player there so he brings a lot of different elements to that football team."

The Patriots signed Burkhead to a one-year deal earlier this offseason that could pay him more than $3 million -- a sign that they're hoping he'll factor heavily into the offense in 2017. With LeGarrette Blount still on the free-agent market, Burkhead is currently the biggest back on the Patriots roster alongside Dion Lewis, James White and DJ Foster, and he could be in line for a significant amount of work in short-yardage situations and on first and second down.

Burkhead served primarily as a special-teamer during his four-year career in Cincinnati, but in Week 17 of last season, because of injuries to his teammates at the position, he was the Bengals lead back and ran 27 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. We took a closer look at the qualities he put on display that day right here

It was a performance that gave Burkhead's profile a where-did-that-come-from type of boost as he headed toward unrestricted free agency, but his head coach at the time wasn't surprised.

"Not at all. That's why we drafted him," said Bengals sideline boss Marvin Lewis, who went on to explain why Burkhead was an inconsistent offensive contributor leading up to that game.

"A lot of times when Rex got opportunities to play, he wasn't quite 100 percent and so that kind of limited him some. Even in preseason opportunities and so forth like that where you'd go into the game, and it'd be Rex's -- in my mind, Rex's ballgame -- to carry the ball in the first or second quarter and he wasn't able to suit up that day.

"That's one of the things he's battled over his career is just being 100 percent completely healthy. [But] he's just a hard-working guy who always wants to be out there."

And in New England, it looks like he'll have the chance to be out there more.