Pietrus has a big defensive night to help stop the Nets

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Pietrus has a big defensive night to help stop the Nets

BOSTON Mickael Pietrus hasn't been himself at all in Boston. Most games, you'll find him around the 3-point line all the time.

Sure, he loves to shoot 3's. But that's not the reason why he's taken up residence behind the arc.

"My knee, it wasn't feeling real good," Pietrus told CSNNE.com. "So I couldn't do some of the things I'm used to doing. But now, I feel great, my knee feels great. You see the real MP right now."

And it is indeed a sight to behold, as Pietrus displays the all-around game that the Celtics have said from the time he arrived would be on display at some point.

Celtics fans got an eyeful on Friday, as Pietrus' strong play was among the reasons for Boston beating New Jersey, 107-94.

With the win, Boston (18-17) has now won three in a row after losing their previous five straight.

And Pietrus, filling in for Ray Allen (sick), was among the standouts propelling the C's above-.500.

He had 11 points and five rebounds, but even more impressive was his defense.

Along with limiting the scoring of whoever he had to guard, his ability to force turnovers when the C's went with their full court trapping press was impressive.

New Jersey turned the ball over 11 times in the first half for 14 points for Boston, many of which were created by Pietrus' defense.

And while he had a 3-pointer made in the first half, he was even more effective scoring off the dribble, or in one instance, faking the long-range shot, stepping in and then passing to a teammate as the Nets defenders collapsed on him.

"I'm just trying to do what I can to help us win," Pietrus said. "Now that I'm healthy, my knee's feeling great, I can do more."

Pietrus underwent surgery on his right knee last July. After being traded to Phoenix from Orlando, Pietrus was then traded to Toronto. However, the trade fell through due to Pietrus apparently failing the physical.

The Suns eventually bought out Pietrus out, which allowed him to become a free agent.

Once he cleared waivers, there was no need for the C's to put on a hard recruiting job to land him.

"Boston was where I wanted to be all along," Pietrus said.

When Pietrus arrived in Boston in December, he talked about doing what he could to help the Celtics win a championship.

Although that seems a bit far-fetched right now with the C's hovering around the .500 mark, Pietrus' focus hasn't changed.

"It's a long season, and we're getting better, getting healthy," he said. "I love my team; I love being a Celtic."

Haggerty: Rask puts up, makes critics shut up

Haggerty: Rask puts up, makes critics shut up

BOSTON -- The decision to sit out Saturday night's game against the Islanders, for whatever issue needed healing, worked wonders for Tuukka Rask.

Rask looked fresh, strong and determined while stopping 24 of 25 shots in a 4-1 win over Nashville on Tuesday night, and, at the very least, temporarily quieting talk of his missing Saturday's win over the Islanders because of a lower-body injury that wasn't disclosed until the day of the game. It also snapped his personal four-game losing streak, in which Rask had allowed 15 goals on 95 shots (an .842 save percentage) and hit rock bottom while surrendering a couple of damaging soft goals in last week's loss to the Lightning.

After watching Anton Khudobin battle, brawl and double-pad-stack his way to a huge win in Brooklyn on Saturday, Rask played with his own battling style Tuesday, fighting through Nashville attackers as he limited the the Preds to one goal.

"I loved [his battle]," said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "He really worked hard to find pucks in traffic. They created some good opportunities, and even the goal against, he found it. They just tipped it at eye level so it was going to be a tough one, and we need to be better in the shooting lane on that one.

"But I thought he was terrific, very pleased with his performance. If you've got to track pucks, you've got to find pucks and you've got to fight through bodies, and he did a real good job with it.

"I thought we played well in front of him, but when we broke down it seemed to be in those areas where we couldn't break the puck up below our goal line. [There were] lot of bodies, a lot of point shots. This is the type of team, [Ryan] Ellis, [P.K.] Subban, [Roman] Josi, they rely on that part of the game and traffic. It was going to be a test for [the defense] there. I thought [Rask] answered the bell and in a terrific manner."

There were no two ways about it, Rask was truly excellent in a game where he had to be.

He made a save in the second period on Viktor Arvidsson when a David Backes turnover at the half-wall gave Arvidsson a wide open look at the net, and made 9 of his 24 saves in the third period as the Predators ramped up the desperation once Craig Smith had broken through on a tipped Josi shot. He also was the beneficiary of 24 blocked shots from the defenders in front of him. Adam McQuaid had five of the blocks all by himself,  absorbing all kinds of bumps and bruises in the process.

It was clear that the Bruins, as a team, were in late-season urgency mode.

"Well, we needed [a win]," said Rask. "Personally, I mean, I've lost four games but played a couple good games there, and we just didn't get the bounces. But we kind of got in winning habits there in [Broooklyn] and me stepping in here, I just wanted to make sure that I gave us a chance to win. The guys did the rest. So, it was a great team effort today, I think. As I said before, we blocked a lot of shots, which is huge."

So does one solid performance mean everything is settled for the B's No. 1 netminder after sitting out last weekend?

It certainly goes a long way toward putting some distance between Rask and whatever lower-body injury popped up and then disappeared just as quickly, and it puts a bit more of an optimistic spin for the remainder of the season. Rask didn't actively listen to any of the criticism of the last couple of days, but he fully understands that it comes along with the territory of being the No. 1 goalie in a city that takes hockey seriously.

"I can't do anything about what people say," said Rask, who took a pretty good hit on a Predators drive to the net in the third period but kept right on trucking. "I'm not staying home because I want to say home. I'm not playing because I don't want to play. I don't think any athlete does that. Obviously what's happened where I missed a game [vs. Ottawa] last year, people are going to talk about it. That's just the nature of media people, and what they talk about. It's fine.

"[All you can do is] you try not to read any of it, you stay even-keeled and you play the game the right way."

But the bottom line is the Bruins need much more of what they saw from Rask on Tuesday -- determined, tough-minded, a strong No. 1 goalie -- in the final six games if they want to be a playoff team this year.

He played well enough in the first few months, carrying the Bruins through the early portion of the season, to make people forget about calling in sick against Ottawa in the final game of last season. That's to Rask's credit. But last weekend's action, or lack of it, brought some of those same nagging questions back. He needs to build on Tuesday's encouraging performance to continue instilling confidence that he's a big-time No. 1 goalie.

Morning Wrap: Looking at C's potential first-round foes

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Morning Wrap: Looking at C's potential first-round foes

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