Rask starts season as a front-line starter should

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Rask starts season as a front-line starter should

BOSTON -- No longer in the shadows of Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask began his tenure as the Bruins' No. 1 goaltender on Saturday night.

It's not the first time he's been the team's go-to 'tender. He got the nod over Thomas down the stretch the season before Thomas' heroic Stanley Cup run. So it's not as if being a No. 1 in the NHL -- or even for the Bruins -- was something new.

What was new was the dynamic that was Thomas' non-existence inside the TD Garden on Saturday night as Rask made 20 saves and allowed just one goal in Boston's 3-1 win over the New York Rangers in the season-opener.

This is Rask's job now. He's the top dog in net for the Bruins. And he played like it on Saturday, showing up the reigning Vezina Trophy winner -- Henrik Lundqvist in the process.

"I felt good throughout the game," said Rask after the win. "The guys made my job so easy because I saw pretty much everything."

That wasn't the case in the team's only exhibition tune-up before the shortened, lockout-plagued season began.

Rask allowed six goals on Tuesday night to Boston's AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins. Most admitted that the defense in front of him just wasn't very good.

On Saturday night, the Bruins' defense made big-time improvements, helping Rask to a night of clean looks.

"I thought he was poised," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the win. "And like I explained to a lot of the guys this week, especially after Tuesday's game, is, it's important right now that when you look at what's going on -- even watching games this afternoon --you see that the minute somebody makes a mistake up front, you've got the defense, and then if the defense makes a mistake, you've got the goaltender. But the goaltender has nobody behind him. So he's often the easy target. And we had to be better in front of him. And we weren't as good in front of him, on Tuesday, as we knew we can.

"I thought our guys did a better job, which allowed Tuukka to see the puck better, and he was able to make some key saves," added Julien. "I thought he was solid. And the goal they scored, everybody did everything well. We were all back and it hit a skate and it was a last-second screen in front of him where he lost sight of it. It was absolutely no way his fault."

The Rangers' only goal came on a Brad Richards wrister from the right point. It was the result of a broken play, after Richards attempted to send a pass across the slot, down to a wide-open Rick Nash in the left circle. Bruins center Patrice Bergeron did his job and blocked the initial pass, but the puck came right back to Richards, who wasted no time firing on net, and it beat a screened Rask upstairs.

"I think a couple of guys skated past my eyes there, and I just saw it at the last second," said Rask. "It was kind of one of those floppers that was kind of going left and right. So, it was a good shot."

"The goal they scored, I don't think there was anything he could do about it," said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. "So, that's a pretty good start to the season, I'd say."

Rask said that he doesn't have a specific goal in mind, with regards to the number of starts he'd like to make as the team's bonafide No. 1 goalie. Regardless of the number, his teammates in front of him are confident he'll be able to handle the workload, after seeing this type of start to the season.

"I think he is a pretty competitive guy, knowing that he's stepping into the No. 1 spot," said Ference. "He's going to put a lot of good pressure on himself, so I think everybody has full confidence in him."

Pedroia doesn't have MRI, still listed as day-to-day with ankle/knee soreness

Pedroia doesn't have MRI, still listed as day-to-day with ankle/knee soreness

Three weeks into the season, health has dominated the conversation with the Red Sox. And it’s much more than just the flu.

A scheduled off-day Monday brought something resembling an update for three players worth roughly $63 million in salary.

Dustin Pedroia, Orioles peacemaker, was examined at Massachusetts General Hospital and remains day-to-day because of left ankle and left knee soreness. He did not undergo an MRI, with his condition apparently good enough that the team felt it was unnecessary -- even though the message delivered on Sunday by manager John Farrell was that the Sox wanted to rule everything out.

Pedroia hasn’t played since he was spiked by Manny Machado on Friday in Baltimore.

Pablo Sandoval, at some point Monday, was slated to have an MRI after spraining his right knee Sunday. A further evaluation is to come Tuesday, so his status remains unclear.

David Price, meanwhile, threw a 45-pitch bullpen at Fenway Park on his long journey back from a left elbow strain. There were simulated inning breaks and, naturally, what’s next is still to be seen. Facing hitters shouldn’t be too far away, Farrell has suggested.

Bills decline to match Patriots offer to RB Mike Gillislee

Bills decline to match Patriots offer to RB Mike Gillislee

The Patriots have themselves another "big back" option for 2017. 

The Bills announced that they have opted not to match the restricted free agent offer sheet that New England made to Mike Gillislee last week. That means the 5-foot-11, 219-pounder is now a member of the Patriots. Buffalo had until 4 p.m. on Monday to match.

Gillislee was reportedly extended an offer sheet by the Patriots that is worth $6.4 million and $4 million in the first year. The Bills had the cap space to match the offer, but with LeSean McCoy already atop their depth chart, the price tag may have been too rich for them to choose to hold onto the 26-year-old.

Because Gillislee was given the original-round tender by the Bills, the Patriots will send Buffalo a fifth-round pick as compensation. That gives Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio six picks in this weekend's draft: two thirds, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth and a seventh.

Gillislee joins Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James White, Brandon Bolden and DJ Foster on the running back depth chart in New England.