Slater, Branch agree Talib trade best for team

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Slater, Branch agree Talib trade best for team

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick stated frankly on his Monday conference call that he wouldn't discuss players not currently on the team. He was, of course, addressing questions about Aqib Talib, who the team traded for last Thursday.

At least, according to the Buccaneers; New England has not yet announced the move.

But Patriots coaches are not the only ones to keep quiet about newly acquired cornerback. Special teams captain Matthew Slater was similarly tight-lipped Tuesday.

"I don't really have any comment on that right now," he said.

The quip was so uncharacteristic of the usually eloquent Slater, reporters paused awkwardly before laughing. Still, he never moved to fill the silence. Slater said he had no relationship with the former first round pick other than on-field competition.

When asked his opinion on the trade, he recited the Patriots handbook.

"I'm trusting in the decisions of Coach Belichick, Director of player personnel Nick Caserio, and the rest of this organization to do what's best for our football team moving forward, giving us the best chance to succeed on the field."

Receiver Deion Branch's sentiment wasn't much of a departure. He did admit that a push to improve the secondary around the NFL's usually quiet trade deadline wasn't too surprising in light of those in charge.

"We know Coach Belichick and his staff and the organization will always do that," Branch said. "They're going to put the team first. Whatever it takes to help improve the team, that's what they're going to do."

Branch did share a bit more than Slater, though not by much.

I played against him in preseason and stuff like that. Hes a great player," he said.

New England faced the former Buccaneers corner during Week 3 of the preseason. Branch played 12 offensive snaps (17-percent of the total) that night; Talib played 20.

Understandably, it's not much for Patriots players to go on.

I dont know if well use him the same way they used him," Branch said. "Its just all about what happens once he gets here.

Which is the point we keep returning to. Talib has one more contest to miss as part of his four-game suspension which he received October 13. In the meantime, he can't set foot on any team facilities.

Not an ideal situation.

Any player who is traded will feel behind to begin with in a new system; Talib will be out of football for four weeks when it's all said in done.

But Branch, traded twice in his career, doesn't foresee any issues.

"I think the guys a professional," he said. "This is the NFL, this is our job. Im sure hell do a good job."

Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

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Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

BROOKLYN, NY – It wasn’t particularly entertaining and it won’t be all that memorable down the ride aside from the timing and importance of the meeting between the Bruins and Islanders. But it was a solid 2-1 team win for the Bruins over the Islanders at the Barclays Center on Saturday night with the B’s grinding all the way down to the end while protecting a one-goal lead through much of the third period.

Nearly everybody across Boston’s roster contributed in the major victory over the team trying to bypass them in the wild card standings, and it was a beautiful thing. Anton Khudobin stepped up when Tuukka Rask couldn’t start Saturday night’s showdown with a lower body issue, and Riley Nash supplied both Boston goals from a fourth line that’s played some of their best hockey lately.

It was unlikely heroes all around for the Black and Gold in the tightly-wound contest, but that diversity of talent and production can be a very good thing for a team looking to make that playoff push.

“You have to stay with it. You have to stay in the moment and stay with the game no matter what’s happening during the game. That’s how you get results, and that’s how you find ways to persevere through adversity,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We just got back to playing stingy, especially in the neutral zone. We got away from it the last few games, and it was nice tonight to be back playing a low-scoring game like what we’re used to playing.”

When it was all said and done the Bruins only allowed 19 shots on net and also killed off six penalties in the kind of grinding defensive showdown that you haven’t seen all that much out of the Black and Gold lately. It was exactly what Cassidy was looking for to snap the four-game losing streak, and once again start pushing the Bruins upward into the playoff chase.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard and fighting that hard to see pucks and find pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Cassidy. “From the goalie on out, everybody was in there [in the win]. It was a tough game. It was a nice Bruins win. We had been doing it with offense earlier, and we’ve got to be able to do it both ways. You need to be able to win 2-1 hockey games, and it had been awhile.”

Now it’s simply up to the Bruins to be feeling good about their latest win while going back to basics, and looking for more next time around after ending their worst losing streak of the season.

Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

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Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

BROOKLYN, NY – Things didn’t go so well last season for the Bruins when Tuukka Rask suddenly wasn’t well enough to play in the last game of the season, so there was good reason for the B’s to be a little nervous when their No. 1 goalie again couldn’t answer the bell Saturday night vs. the Islanders.

Anton Khudobin had won four games in a row headed into Saturday night, of course, and in his previous start he’d helped snap a 10-game winning streak for the Calgary Flames. So perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising when Khudobin stood tall for the Bruins making 18 saves in a tight, nervy 2-1 win over the Isles at the Barclays Center.

“You don’t have that many shots, but maybe 10 scoring chances…that can be tougher than seeing 30 shots and same amount of scoring chances,” said Khudobin. “But I’m glad got the job done, we got our points and we got the ‘W’.”

It wasn’t wall-to-wall action in a game where both teams combined for 37 shots on net, but it was still impressive that Khudobin and the B’s special teams killed off six Islander power plays in such a tight hockey game. After the B’s backup netminder was lauded for the way he battled in the crease and competed for pucks like his team’s very life was on the line in a pivotal game.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I loved his performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

One could spend days analyzing Cassidy's words and wondering much of that was deserved, appreciative praise for Khudobin, and how much of that might have been a veiled message to Boston's No. 1 goaltender sitting back home in Boston. 

The best save of the night probably won’t even count as a save for the Russian netminder. It was John Tavares, after having beaten Khudobin once in the first period, moving into the offensive zone with speed during a third period power play, and getting an open look at the net front in the high slot. Khudobin thought quickly and dropped into the unconventional double-stack pad save that seemed to throw Tavares off just a little, and the Isles sniper smoked the shot off the crossbar rather than tying up the game.

“I didn’t touch it. I didn’t really have time to get there, so the only thing I tried to do was the two-pad stack, old school Bob Essensa-style,” said Khudobin, who has now improved to 6-5-1 with a 2.60 goals against and an .899 save percentage this season. “Then he hit the crossbar. You need to get some luck in this league, and if you don’t get luck you’re going to lose games.”

A little luck and a little good, old-fashioned battling between the pipes was enough for Khudobin and the Bruins in Saturday night’s mammoth win. Now the questions become whether or not to go right back to Khudobin again on Tuesday at home against the Nashville Predators.