Patriots begin self-evaluation week

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Patriots begin self-evaluation week

FOXBORO -- On Monday, Patriots running back Stevan Ridley said he would be off hunting this weekend when asked if he would be paying attention to the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.
That was a day after New England had clinched a first-round bye.
Two days later, the tone inside the Patriots' locker room is "business as usual." And the responses to the "Will you be watching this weekend?" question was somewhat different than Ridley's.
 "I'll watch every game this weekend, closely," said Patriots' safety Steve Gregory after Wednesday's practice at Gillette Stadium.
"I'll probably watch HoustonCincinnati pretty closely, as I will all the games," said wide receiver Wes Welker. "And make sure I'm trying to stay on top of it all."
But until Saturday, the Patriots have a few days to not worry about their next opponent, mainly because, well, they don't know who that next opponent will be.
So there's no sense in preparing for three teams. Instead, they'll take the time to self-evaluate.
"We'll see how it plays out this weekend," said Gregory. "Right now, we're focused on us, getting some things corrected that we need to get corrected, and getting better.
"You want to narrow down on the things that you need to get fixed. And we've been doing that this week. So it's a good week for us, a big week for us to get better.
"It's just a week that we have an opportunity where we don't have to really necessarily game plan for one team," added Gregory. "It's a week where we can focus on ourselves a lot and get better at some of the things that we need to get better at."
Cornerback Aqib Talib referred to the bye week as a "free week."
"You can work on everything with a week like this," he said. "So, it's big for us."

Eduardo Rodriguez slated to start in Double-A Thursday; could return early July

Eduardo Rodriguez slated to start in Double-A Thursday; could return early July

BOSTON — Helped by a custom knee brace, starter Eduardo Rodriguez could make an early July return to the Red Sox if all goes right from here.

The lefty threw a sim game Saturday at Fenway Park, his first time facing hitters since a right knee subluxation at the start of June. He’s to stay on a five-day schedule and is slated to start for Double-A Portland on Thursday if he comes out of Saturday feeling well.

Rodriguez threw 68 pitches Saturday, manager John Farrell said, and is to throw 75-80 for Portland.

"The key for me is seeing the height of the leg kick,” Farrell said. “The brace that he's wearing now gives him such a greater feeling of stability in the knee that he can be more assertive with the lower half, so the delivery is much more Eddie-like than when he had to adjust in that game in Baltimore.”

One rehab start would be ideal, Farrell said. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said on Friday that Doug Fister could theoretically move to the bullpen upon Rodriguez's return. That’s still a few steps away, though. 

One, Rodriguez needs to get all the way back. Two, Fister needs to perform well enough that the Sox feel he’s worth holding on to. Fister’s first start is to come Sunday.

Rodriguez's progress has been encouraging to the Sox since he began to rehab. Without a setback, he'd return before the All-Star break, setting the team up well for the second half.

Bruins go for a defensive project late with Daniel Bukac

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Bruins go for a defensive project late with Daniel Bukac

CHICAGO – The Bruins finished up their 2017 NHL Draft class with a bit of a project, but a 6-foot-5 defenseman with some great skating wheels is a pretty good way to go with a seventh round pick. The B’s nabbed Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Daniel Bukac with the 204th pick in the draft, and admitted afterward that he’s an ultra-big bodied player that could take some time in the development process.

Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley said Boston is more than happy to be patient with Bukac given the tools that he’s working with as an 18-year-old prospect. Bukac had two goals and 17 points to go along with 38 penalty minutes in his first season in North America after coming over from the Czech Republic, and Bradley said that B’s scouts noted that he continued to improve and get comfortable as the season wore on.

"He's raw. He's a project. [He’s a] kid from the Czech Republic that played in the Western Hockey League,” said Bradley. “At the start of the year - he's come leaps and bounds with his development. Talking to the people - the coaches, the management, and the GM in Brandon, they're very excited about him coming back to Brandon. They're expecting big things from him. We look forward to seeing him in camp."

Bukac is starting to garner some good international experience after playing for the Czechs in the Under-18’s and the Ivan Hinkla Tournament, but this weekend it was all about his addition to the talented group of Bruins prospects in the hockey world.

"I'm so excited to be drafted by the Boston Bruins," said Bukac, who described himself as a solid two-way defenseman with a good first pass. "It's an awesome feeling. I'm so glad that I was drafted by Boston."