From Comcast SportsNetFOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- The New England Patriots can make quick work of the NFL draft. With no picks after the fourth round, Bill Belichick and his braintrust could be done long before the seven-round selection process is over.Don't count on it.Belichick usually stays busy making deals on draft day -- trading up for a player he wants or down for a lower pick plus an additional choice the following year. In 2010, he sent the 22nd pick to Denver for the Broncos' 24th and a fourth rounder. Then he shipped that 24th selection and his own fourth-round pick to Dallas for the 27th and a third rounder.As usual, his plans for the three-day draft starting Thursday night are shrouded in mystery. He didn't even have a pre-draft news conference, sending director of player personnel Nick Caserio out to address reporters instead.For now, the Patriots have two picks in the first round (the 27th and 31st), two in the second (16th and 31st), and one each in the third and fourth (both the 31st)."Historically, there's been a lot of movement as it relates to our picks," Caserio said. "Right now is where we are, but the door is always open. I would say that those things kind of evolve as the draft sort of moves along."We'll see how it goes."The Patriots sent their fifth rounder to Cincinnati before last season for WR Chad Ochocinco, who had a disappointing year with just 15 receptions. They traded picks in the next two rounds on the same day, Sept. 5, 2010, with the sixth rounder going to Philadelphia for linebacker Tracy White and the seventh rounder to Kansas City for safety Jarrad Page.But they do have an extra pick in each of the first two rounds. Of course, they could trade any of those, most likely for a pick in the current draft."You try not to look too far into next year because there's an air of uncertainty," Caserio said. "You don't really know what that quantity of players is going to look like. You may have some idea throughout the course of the fall when you're going through it, but I'd say for the most part you're focused on (this) year."And this year they have plenty of positions to shore up despite reaching the Super Bowl against the New York Giants that wasn't decided until the final play -- Tom Brady's desperation heave into the end zone that fell incomplete in a 21-17 Patriots loss.The Patriots allowed the second most yards overall and in pass defense last season, and need help throughout the unit.They were 14th in the NFL with 40 sacks, led by Mark Anderson and Andre Carter with 10 each. But Anderson signed with Buffalo as a free agent and Carter is a free agent whose season ended with a knee injury in the 14th game of the season. The secondary also could use help, especially at safety where 2010 first-round draft pick Devin McCourty moved over from his normal cornerback position.Among those who could be available in the first round to help the pass rush are Nick Perry of USC, Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, Vinny Curry of Marshall and Shea McClellin of Boise State."I think the quantity of front seven players, I'd say is higher than it's been in the past," Caserio said. "There are some other positions where maybe there aren't as many players. It evolves and it rotates every year. I'd say every draft is sort of different just in terms of quality and quantity of player."In the secondary, the Patriots could have a shot at cornerbacks Stephen Gilmore of South Carolina and Janoris Jenkins of North Alabama and safety Harrison Smith of Notre Dame.New England also lacked a deep threat last season, but the signing of free agent Brandon Lloyd could make the need for a speedy young receiver less pressing.There's an unusually large number of underclassmen in the draft and that could pose a dilemma for teams."You need to delve in a little bit further, especially with underclassmen because you could have a player who let's just say has been out of high school for three years," Caserio said, "or let's say he's a redshirt sophomore, who only played one year of college football at a productive level or started for one year, so you have to make that determination. Next year, do you think that performance would improve or would it decline?"Another issue is the possibility that some veterans will retire. Left tackle Matt Light and right guard Brian Waters may go that route."Our thinking won't change," Caserio said. "We'll approach it the same way and we'll deal with things on a day-to-day basis, however they unfold."
The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.
1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”
2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.
3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”
4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”
5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.