Lucic: You dont replace a player like Horton

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Lucic: You dont replace a player like Horton

WILMINGTON, Mass. While the news certainly didnt come as a shock to most of Nathan Hortons Bruins teammates after watching him struggle with concussion symptoms over the last three months, the word that No. 18 wont make it for the playoffs still had gravity to it.

I was hoping he would come back in the first or second round, but now he wont be. It kind of sucks, but thats how it goes sometimes, said David Krejci. Its his life and his own body and he shouldnt be pushing it if he doesnt feel well. Theres nothing you can. Ive had concussions a few times, so I know how it is. Its not an easy situation.

You cant replace him. Hes a great player and I love playing with him. But we played close to 40 games without him, so we know how to win without him. We have great depth. Hopefully we can do it.

The Bruins seem to have moved on from the power forwards absence, but that was only after getting shut out five times in the first three weeks following his concussion suffered against the Flyers in late January. Horton had six power play goals in his half-season with Boston this year, and that along with his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame -- will be one of the big areas that cant be readily replaced.

Horton is still last years Game 7 hero with a pair of game-winning goals against the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning during last years playoffs, and that kind of thing cant be replicated.

His clutch goals and contagious smile will be missed by his teammates. The Bruins have gone a very average 18-16-2 in the 36 games since Horton was felled by the Tom Sestito blindside hit.

Hes one of my best friends on the team and its obviously some very difficult news. He needs to do whats best for his health. Thats first and foremost, said Milan Lucic, his linemate for the last two years. But Im not going to lie to you. Were going to miss. Weve been forced to move on because hes been gone so long, but you dont replace a player like Horton.

The Bruins wont even try to replace Hortons sizestrengthscoring combo at the right wing spot alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Instead theyve been using the same player there that replaced Horton when the Aaron Rome hit took him out of last years Stanley Cup Finals.

Claude Julien opted to go with speed, shiftiness and a little feistiness with Peverley, who is still getting his timing and feel around the net after missing six weeks himself with a sprained knee. In time Peverley should again mesh with Krejci and Lucic, but wasnt at the front of the Boston coachs thoughts on Wednesday.

Those were reserved for Horton, and a long summer of rest, rehab and recovery that still looms for a player waiting for his head to clear.

Number one, its unfortunate. We lose a pretty good player but we havent had him for a good long time now. For him its probably the best thing, which is most important right now, said Claude Julien. Youve got to make the right decision with those. Hes tried to come back a few times and he kept having those setbacks. You could lately he was feeling the pressure of trying to come back for the playoffs.

When youre not feeling well, thats not right. We felt as an organization it was important to let him know we were going to shut him down for the year. Hes probably a little relieved in a way because of the pressure he was putting on himself. He wanted to be able to help his teammates, but if hes not ready you cant push a guy to play. Certainly his health has always been the main concern for us.

So Horton will sit on the sidelines away from his teammates hoping to banish the foggy head and ill-at-ease feelings that come with post-concussion symptoms and perhaps once again provide an inspiration for his teammates marching toward a Stanley Cup.

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.