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Bruins make predictions for Super Bowl LI 02.05.17 at 5:28 pm ET
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The Bruins are rooting for the Patriots tonight. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are rooting for the Patriots tonight. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are sports fans, too.

And decked out in Patriots gear delivered to the team on Friday at Warrior Ice Arena, it’s no surprise who the Patriots are pulling for tonight in Super Bowl LI between the Pats and Falcons.

It was in 2015 that Milan Lucic picked the Pats to beat the Seahawks 27-24 (the final score was 28-24 in favor of the Patriots), so I had to ask this new group of Bruins who they picked and the final score.

Matt Beleskey: Patriots 35, Falcons 27. 

An Ontario native (and a noted Blue Jays fan), Beleskey is all in on Boston, and the Patriots are included in that. The hard-hitting winger is confidently picking the Patriots, and expects Julian Edelman to score the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Jimmy Hayes: Patriots 35, Falcons 21. 

The Dorchester native is obviously a Patriots fan, and when asked about who he’s picking for this game, he without hesitation said, “Oh, the Patriots.” When asked for a score, Hayes wanted to try and line it up with his squares, so he’s taking the Patriots by 14 in a 35-to-21 final.

Tim Schaller: Patriots 31, Falcons 24. 

A New Hampshire native, Schaller is amped for this game and knows the importance of that fifth Super Bowl title. “If they win this one, it’s almost like I’d be content with them not winning it again,” Schaller said. But as a New Englander he knows these games are never blowouts, even if you expect them, and he expects another close one.

Zane McIntyre: Patriots 28, Falcons 24. 

A Vikings fan growing up (though he admits it’s been hard to get to games because the hockey schedule and football schedule collide), McIntyre expects a game. “The defenses will be flying around, it’ll be a good one,” McIntyre said. “Barnburner.”

Joe Morrow: Patriots 34, Falcons 24. 

A fantasy football champion this season, Morrow knows what he’s talking about when it comes to football. Well, in a way. He initially picked the Patriots by 10, but when pressed for a score he said, “34 to 24 — is that possible?” Oh yes, very possible.

Brandon Carlo: Patriots win by three.

Wearing a Patriots shirt after practice on Friday, I had to ask the Colorado native the obvious question: Aren’t you a Broncos fan? The 20-year-old admitted that he did like the Broncos when he lived back home, but that he wants to root for the Boston teams now that he’s here. In awe of what Tom Brady is doing at his age, Carlo didn’t have a score, but he did like the Pats by three.

Frank Vatrano: Patriots win by 12.  

The East Longmeadow native didn’t have a score, but he’s taking the Pats by 12.

Bruins shouldn’t find moral victories in loss to Maple Leafs 02.05.17 at 12:04 am ET
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The Bruins are not content with any moral victories from Saturday's loss to the Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins are not content with any moral victories from Saturday’s loss to the Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

If this loss happened to the Bruins a month ago, it stings, but they learn from it and move forward. If this loss happens against a team from the Western Conference tomorrow, they likely do the same.

But to lose this game, a 6-5 loss on TD Garden ice, to these Maple Leafs, who are now just one point behind the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic and with five games in hand, well that’s just plain rotten.

Entering action with a 37 percent chance of making the playoffs, and with a chance for that figure to bump up another seven percent with a win, the Bruins instead lost, and saw their playoff hopes dip over nine percent, down to 27.8 percent. The Bruins, who have not had a winning streak longer than three games this season, were already up against the percentages when it came to their playoff aspirations, are now in a situation where they’ll likely have to nab 65 percent of the remaining 54 points on their schedule.

Three-goal comeback from 4-1 down? Valiant effort, sure, but who cares, you still lost.

There are no moral victories left for this team.

It’s just the truth of this team’s situation.

Already entrenched in must-win territory in February, the Bruins lost perhaps the biggest game of the month’s rest-heavy slate.

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Bruins show playoff intensity, but can’t secure win in loss to Leafs 02.04.17 at 10:10 pm ET
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Bruins/Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins/Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

It ran long at times, but Saturday night at TD Garden had it all.

It was past 8 p.m. before the first period came to an end. The third period did not begin until 9:30 p.m. the home crowd didn’t wanna leave. In an Original Six matchup with meaning — the Maple Leafs came to Boston on a three-game losing skid and three points behind the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division — the Bruins and Leafs called back to the days of old with the blood feud of a near century-long rivalry. They countered with goals, agitation, and a fight.

The Leafs even blew a 4-1 lead. Playoff hockey? Yeah, it’s here.

As close as it can be in February for these desperate clubs.

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Adam McQuaid and Matt Martin drop gloves in potential Fight of the Year 02.04.17 at 9:17 pm ET
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Since the last one didn’t work, here’s another reminder to the NHL: Fighting Adam McQuaid is still a bad idea.

It may even border on a stupid idea, at this point.

With the Bruins in search of a spark in a listless second period, McQuaid engaged with Maple Leafs forward Matt Martin.

In a battle of true NHL heavyweights — McQuaid is listed at 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds while Martin checks in at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds — the towering duo traded blow for blow before landed the knockout punch and sent Martin back to the room.

The energy was felt throughout the bench.

“McQuaid stood up and woke some of the guys up with that scrap,” Julien admitted, “it seemed to give us some life.”

“It was obviously an amazing fight by both guys,” Patrice Bergeron said. “Adam has always been a huge influence on a lot of guys. He’s very quiet but he always works hard and goes about his business. He stands up for his teammates.”

Bruins forward Austin Czarnik said it was the loudest he’s heard the TD Garden all season.

The fight was McQuaid’s team-leading fourth fight of the season.

Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask expected to play for Bruins vs. Maple Leafs 02.04.17 at 5:01 pm ET
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Both Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask are expected to be in vs. the Maple Leafs. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Both Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask are expected to be in vs. the Maple Leafs. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The bad news for the Bruins is that they’re basically in must-win territory, even in the beginning of February. That’s especially true against the Maple Leafs, a team that’s beaten the Bruins two times in as many head-to-heads this season and one of several teams chasing the Bruins for a spot in the playoff picture, tonight at TD Garden.

The good news for the Bruins, however, comes with the anticipated return of both No. 1 center Patrice Bergeron and ace goaltender Tuukka Rask, who both missed missed Friday’s practice, Bergeron because of a lower-body injury and Rask for some good old fashioned maintenance.

“We’ll probably have to make a game-time decision, but they both look fine,” Claude Julien said after the club’s skate at Warrior Ice Arena.

“I felt better today,” Bergeron said this morning, “it was a lot of better than it was in the third period when I tried to go back out there. There should be a good chance [that I play].”

The 31-year-old Bergeron has tallied 12 goals and 26 points in 51 games this season, but has turned it on (read as: finally found some offensive luck) in recent games, with seven goals and 16 points in his last 17 games played.

A rested Rask (the 29-year-old had two consecutive days off between Wednesday in D.C. and tonight) is good news for the Bruins, too, as he enters play with 15 wins and a .932 save percentage in 21 career starts against the Maple Leafs.

The Leafs come into this game on a three-game losing streak but still just three points behind the Bruins with five games in hand.

Connecticut governor makes pitch for Islanders to move to Hartford 02.03.17 at 3:52 pm ET
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The Islanders could be looking for a new home. (Andy Marlin/USA Today Sports)

The Islanders could be looking for a new home. (Andy Marlin/USA Today Sports)

Cue up “Brass Bonanza” because we’ve got ourselves some good old-fashioned Hartford hockey talk.

According to Hartford’s WFSB, Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy has sent a letter to Islanders ownership offering up the XL Center as a temporary, and perhaps long-term, home for the franchise.

The Islanders could be looking for a new home after the 2017-18 or 2018-19 season following reports that their current home, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (which also hosts the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets), could make more money without them there and is looking to dump them.

The XL Center was home to the Whalers from 1975 until the team left for Carolina in 1997. It has undergone a number of renovations in recent years, and Malloy notes in his letter (you can read the full letter here) that there are plans for more to come.

It’s all a long shot since the Islanders’ first choice is presumably to stay in the New York City area, but hey, it’s worth a try, right? At the very least, it gives us all an excuse to listen to this:

Bruins coach Claude Julien wears ‘Do Your Job’ shirt to practice 02.03.17 at 2:19 pm ET
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Do Your Job.

It’s a phrase that Claude Julien has often adopted for his own team, but also one that he wore on his chest Friday.

After a 45-minute on-ice session at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of tomorrow’s pivotal head-to-head with the Maple Leafs, Julien greeted the media wearing a Patriots shirt featuring Bill Belichick’s famous ‘Do Your Job’ motto that became a rallying cry of sorts for the Patriots during their Super Bowl run in 2015. But the 10-year coach of the Bruins was far from the only Bruin donning some Patriots gear ahead of this weekend’s Super Bowl LI showdown between the Patriots and Falcons.

In fact, every Bruins player had a brand new Patriots toque and shirt in their locker following the skate.

“After tomorrow night, I’m all in,” Julien, who skated with Belichick when the B’s borrowed his field for the 2016 Winter Classic against the Canadiens, said when asked about his Patriots gear. “But this can be attributed to us, too. We have to do our jobs.

“So it’s a double meaning.”

The Bruins skate against the Leafs at 7 p.m. on Saturday night.

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