Krejci ready for the big stage

566830.jpg

Krejci ready for the big stage

David Krejci has always been a big game player, and he always seems to be lurking in the shadow of Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin during the regular season. Bergerons magnificent two-way play and Seguins explosive offensive skills are easy talking points for the Black and Gold, but Krejci is perhaps the perfect mixture of breathtaking passing ability and responsible center play just a shade under Bergeron.

The Czech Republic center is certainly ready after potting a career-high 23 goals and surpassing the 60-point barrier for the third time in his five seasons with the Black and Gold.

This is a fun time. We all know that weve had a success in past, but this is kind of a new season and a new year, said Krejci. So youve got to start from the beginning. We got to start with a good game tomorrow and go from there.

But Krejci also rises to the postseason occasion in a different way than either Seguin or Bergeron, and has proven in the past just how valuable he is when the games matter. Sure he can be accused of coasting through the dead portions of the regular season, but No. 46 was also the leading goal-scorer for the Bruins during last years Cup run.

People also forget that things fell apart for the Black and Gold two years ago in the collapse to Philly once a Mike Richards open-ice hit knocked Krejci out of the playoffs with a dislocated wrist. Thats the value of Krejci once the playoffs begin in earnest, and thats his value in giving the Bruins three centers with 20-goal potential.

Hes played well lately. Some players have a tough time getting up for 82 games. But one thing I know about David hes never had a tough time getting up for playoffs. I dont think theres a real big key there, said Claude Julien. He led the scoring in the playoffs last year. The year before when he got hurt in Philly he was arguably our best player at the time.

So Krejci and regular season inconsistency certainly is not a concern for us. I think David gets excited about playoffs and hes always been a good player for us and I dont expect that to change.

The only player with a worse mark than Krejcis minus-5 on the season was Shawn Thornton at a minus-7, but that doesnt mean jack with it comes to the center and the postseason.

Krejci becomes one of the best players in the world when the grand Stanley Cup stage is introduced, and that starts tonight against the Washington Caps.

Hightower, Branch will begin training camp on PUP list

patriots-donta-hightower-020916.jpg

Hightower, Branch will begin training camp on PUP list

The Patriots will be without two of last year's defensive starters when training camp begins later this week. 

Both Dont'a Hightower and Alan Branch were placed on the physically unable to perform list on Monday. They are eligible to come off the list at any time. Once they are removed from the list, they will be eligible to practice fully. Players on PUP count against the 90-man training-camp roster.

Undrafted rookie tackle Andrew Jelks will begin camp on the active/non-football injury list. The Vanderbilt product dealt with knee injuries that kept him off the field each of the last two seasons. 

Neither Hightower, nor Branch, nor Jelks participated in spring practices at Gillette Stadium. Hightower was present for voluntary work, but during practices open to the media he typically did some conditioning off to the side. Branch skipped optional team activities (as he usually does), and though he was in Foxboro for mandatory minicamp, he did not practice during that three-day stretch.

Hightower was limited last season with knee and shoulder injuries. The MMQB.com's Albert Breer said on Sports Sunday that Hightower's health concerns made teams reticent to make him offers that would lure him away from New England. 

Report: Patriots in talks with CB Brandon Flowers

ap_16312017637687.jpg

Report: Patriots in talks with CB Brandon Flowers

In what’s been a somewhat busy offseason for their secondary, veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers is in talks with the Patriots, according to Adam Schefter. 

Flowers, who spent the first six seasons of his career with the Chiefs and last three with the Chargers, was released in March. He is set to meet with the Cardinals this week as well. 

The Pats lost cornerback Logan Ryan this offseason, but landed the top free agent corner on the market in Stephon Gilmore. A potential addition of Flowers might give them an insurance policy if second-year pro Cyrus Jones fails to improve from a dismal rookie season. 

Flowers was limited to just six games last season, as a concussion ended his season in December. He has played in at least 11 games in the rest of his NFL seasons. His lone Pro Bowl nod came in the 2013 season.