<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Sports]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Fri, 24 Oct 2014 05:48:21 -0500 Fri, 24 Oct 2014 05:48:21 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Predators Power Past Blackhawks 3-2]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 23:29:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/183*120/456992640.jpg

In a battle of the final two teams in the NHL without a regulation loss, it was the Nashville Predators that came out on top as they bested the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 3-2 on Thursday night.

Ben Smith scored a first period goal for the Blackhawks, and Andrew Shaw scored in the third period, but it wasn’t enough as James Neal scored a natural hat trick for the Predators. Pekka Rinne stepped up in a big way in the third period for the Predators, stopping 16 shots and keeping the Hawks largely at bay. Antti Raanta played a solid game in his second straight start, saving 24 shots in the contest.

The game started out on the sluggish side for both teams, with each team struggling to generate many chances. Derek Roy did get a good chance early in the game as he stripped the puck from Kris Versteeg at the blue line, but Raanta was up to the task as he slid out to the right side of the crease and made the save.

The Predators got a couple of huge chances near the midway point of the period, but Raanta made a few great saves. Filip Forsberg feathered a great pass across the ice to a streaking Neal, but the redirection shot went just wide. Colin Wilson had a great shot too, and Shea Weber followed that up with a hard shot of his own, but Raanta made both stops. Finally, Roman Josi’s shot from the point was swallowed up by the goaltender, and the Hawks got a much-needed whistle.

The missed chances ended up costing the Predators a few moments later as the Hawks seized the lead. After working his way out of the corner, Smith pushed a pass to Marcus Kruger near the goal line. Kruger then put a wraparound attempt through the goal crease, and Smith pounded home the loose puck to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.

The Predators got a power play shortly after the goal, but they weren’t able to generate much in the way of scoring chances. Just as it looked as the Hawks would escape the period with the lead however, the Predators struck at even strength with less than a minute remaining in the frame. Seth Jones made a good play for Nashville as he entered the zone and circled to buy a moment for his teammates to join on the rush, and when he fed a pass to Neal, the sniper didn’t miss as he fired a shot just inside the far post to tie things up at 1-1 at the conclusion of 20 minutes.

Early in the second period, the Blackhawks started out poorly, eventually running their shot-less streak to nearly 13 minutes before a Shaw shot found its way on net. After that play however, the floodgates opened a bit, with Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews adding chances of their own. Rinne was up to the task, stopping every shot and keeping the game tied up.

The Predators pushed back quickly after those chances, racking up several good ones of their own. Paul Gaustad put a knuckling shot on Raanta from the face-off dot, and when the goaltender yielded a rebound, Niklas Hjalmarsson was able to tie up Eric Nystrom’s stick to prevent a second chance. Seabrook then committed a penalty to keep Nashville’s momentum up, but despite two chances from Colin Wilson and Jones, the Predators came up empty on the man-advantage.

A few minutes later, the Hawks got a power play of their own, but despite spending the entire two minutes in the Nashville end of the ice, they couldn’t score. The Predators seized the momentum back after that successful kill when Neal stole a wayward pass from Brandon Saad and rifled a shot just under the crossbar to give the Predators a 2-1 edge with less than four minutes remaining in the period.

Early in the third period, the Predators extended their lead thanks to a good bit of work by Ryan Ellis. After securing the puck at the point, Ellis fired a shot toward the net that hit traffic in front, and Neal was there to collect the rebound and flip it past Raanta to make it a 3-1 game less than two minutes into the frame.

After that initial punch, the Blackhawks responded with some scoring chances of their own. Daniel Carcillo had a rebound chance just in front of the cage, but he couldn’t quite get his stick on it. Rinne then robbed Versteeg off a nice feed from Seabrook across the ice, and then stopped a Saad shot off a well-executed break into the zone by the youngster.

The intense pressure finally got to Rinne with a little over seven minutes remaining as the Hawks narrowed the deficit to one. After a funky bounce off the boards, Shaw grabbed a loose puck and drove to the net. Rinne made the initial stop, but Shaw followed up by batting the puck out of midair and into the net to make it a 3-2 game.

In the final seven minutes of the game, the Hawks tried to exert more pressure on Nashville, but they had a difficult time even pushing the puck into the offensive zone. Roman Josi had a nice play to deny Shaw a chance off a Marian Hossa feed, and Kane had a couple of shots in the final few minutes of the game, but neither went as Rinne helped the Predators to secure the victory.

The Blackhawks will wrap up their quick two-game road trip on Saturday night when they take on the reeling St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[War of the Words: Battle Heats Up Between SF, KC Librarians]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 15:07:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Juan+Marichal+and+Dan+by+Jim+Hart.jpg

The war of words is heating up between two public libraries 1,500 miles apart, as dueling librarians do their part to boost their hometown baseball team's quest to win the World Series crown.

Sounding a bit Shakespearean, Liesl Christman, the Twitter czar for the Kansas City Public Library, tweeted on Wednesday morning, hours after the San Francisco Giants crushed the Royals in Game 1 on Tuesday, 7-1: "'Tis but a flesh wound - @Royals will rally! Tonight, #LetsThrowFire!"

If the Giants win it all, Christman promised Wednesday her library will buy and shelve San Rafael author Dan Fost's book, "The Giants Baseball Experience: A Year-by-Year Chronicle from New York to San Francisco."

If the Royals win, Christman hopes the San Francisco Public Library will be forced to stock George Brett's "From Here to Cooperstown," which is about the Royals, on its shelves.

Michelle Jeffers, the digital guru at the library in San Francisco, said she'd consider the request, but from what's she's heard, that book is out of print.

"Even better!" Jeffers joked, adding that under different circumstances she and Christman might be very good friends.

Then Jeffers tweeted: "Guess we'll see what happens tonight when the Giants shhhhhhh-ut you down in Game 2."

No one is happier about the librarian smack talk than Fost, a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter who is now a full-time author and freelance writer. Each time the Giants make it to the World Series – this is third time in five seasons – he is asked to write a new edition. "This is a mutually symbiotic relationship," he said on Wednesday.

As for the baseball book bet, Fost is also genuinely enthralled Kansas City readers may be flipping through pages he wrote.

"What a great idea to promote reading," he said. "I'm so moved."



Photo Credit: Jim Hart
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<![CDATA[Ditka Criticizes Bears, Trestman for Rotating Captaincy ]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:45:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bc901e77851e4d74b758d5a778eb4b88.jpg

The Chicago Bears’ decision to have rotating captains this season was an intriguing one before the season began, but in light of the recent turmoil in the team’s locker room, some commentators are weighing in on the subject again.

Former Bears head coach Mike Ditka is one of those personalities, chastising Marc Trestman for the decision while discussing the blow-up that included wide receiver Brandon Marshall:

“That’s because you don’t have one. If you had one, he’d be the captain, and that would be it. That’s all there is to it. When you see a leader, you don’t have to look too much further. It is what it is. If he’s the guy, then he’s the guy they want to follow. I believe you should have a captain and a co-captain on offense and defense.”

While questioning whether there is a leadership void on the Bears is a valid point, this notion that simply designating someone a captain would address the issue is ludicrous. The Bears are one of eight NFL teams that rotate their captaincy on a weekly basis, a group that includes the other three teams in the NFC North.

The question that has to be asked of Ditka, as well as other commentators who are criticizing the rotating captains idea, is this: if it’s good enough for the Baltimore Ravens, who won the Super Bowl in 2013, and if it’s good enough for the Green Bay Packers, then what’s the problem with Chicago doing it? It’s simply a way of recognizing quality play on a weekly basis, and it’s also a way to recognize that everyone shares in the responsibilities of being a good teammate.

Leaders emerge in a locker room whether or not an extra patch is included on a uniform, and the truth is that the “C” on the helmet is a heck of a lot more important than the “C” patch on a jersey. 



Photo Credit: Lutz, BJ (NBCUniversal)]]>
<![CDATA[Crawford to Miss Upcoming Road Trip ]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:58:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/456957794.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks got a great goaltending performance out of Antti Raanta on Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, but they will need him to give them a couple more, as Corey Crawford will not be accompanying the team on their upcoming road trip.

Crawford missed Tuesday’s game with an upper-body injury after he missed the team’s morning skate. Head coach Joel Quenneville termed Crawford’s condition “day-to-day,” and had cautioned yesterday that the goaltender may not make the trip to Nashville on Thursday.

After Wednesday’s practice at the United Center, Quenneville told the media that Crawford won’t be playing on Saturday in St. Louis either, and even hinted that Scott Darling, who was called up from the Rockford IceHogs on Tuesday, could make a start if Crawford doesn’t return this weekend.

Darling hasn’t played in an NHL game during his career, but put up some solid numbers with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL last season, posting a 2.00 GAA and a .933 save percentage in 26 appearances.

Crawford currently has a 3-0-1 record with a 1.66 GAA and a save percentage of .926 in four starts this season for the Blackhawks.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Three Stars: Kane, Raanta Lead Hawks to Victory]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:54:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/171*120/457629866.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks went into Tuesday’s game looking to give Antti Raanta some goal support, and that’s exactly what they did as Patrick Kane picked up two power play goals in a 4-0 victory.

We’ll have more breakdown on how the Hawks managed to best the Flyers later today, but for now here are our Three Stars of the game.

Third Star: Bryan Bickell/Brandon Saad

One of the biggest complaints about the Blackhawks early in the season has been about their lack of quality third line play, but that concern was largely addressed on Tuesday as both even-strength goals the Hawks scored came from that group.

The reason we couldn’t choose between the two players for Third Star honors was because they both brought essentially the same thing to the party. Both players crashed the net on the first goal of the game (Saad eventually got to the puck first, but Bickell’s stick blade was right behind it), and both players had good passes that helped set up great scoring chances (Saad’s pass off the boards to Bickell got the rush started, and Bickell’s pass back across to Saad forced Steve Mason to make a save before the rebound was eventually pounded in).

At any rate, both players seemed to enjoy playing together, and the hope the Blackhawks have is that they can get Brad Richards’ scoring abilities going as well. He did pick up an assist in the game after firing two straight shots at Mason before Saad cleaned up the mess.

Second Star: Antti Raanta

With Corey Crawford out of the lineup after a great start to the season, Raanta had a lot to live up to and he delivered. He ended up making 32 saves in the game to get the shutout victory, and in the process he helped the Hawks end their four-game homestand with a bang.

The great thing about Raanta’s performance was that he was making sure to cover all areas of the net on all manner of shots. In the second period, Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl got in on a rush toward the net, and Raffl feathered a pass across the ice to the Flyers’ captain. Giroux stuck his stick out and tipped a shot toward the net, but a sliding Raanta made a save with his leg pad.

Later in the period, RJ Umberger made a great move to get around Duncan Keith near the blue line, and he found Matt Read wide open on the other side of the ice. Read fired a shot high at Raanta, but even while sliding across to center him up he was able to throw up his blocker and make a save on the play.

Crawford’s job as the starter is certainly secure, but having his back-up put on that kind of a performance has to be a big confidence boost for the Blackhawks’ defense.

First Star: Patrick Kane

Kane is one of the most flamboyant players in the NHL, with an arsenal of tricks that would make anyone envious (even Sidney Crosby). On Tuesday night however, Kane’s showmanship took a back seat to his practicality, as both of his goals came courtesy of crashing the net.

In the first period, the Blackhawks got a power play thanks to a silly penalty by Raffl, and Kane made the Flyers pay. As he has shown a propensity for doing this season, Patrick Sharp got the puck at the point and immediately fired a shot toward the net. The puck ended up going wide, but Kane was right near the blue paint to collect it and push it past Mason to make it a 2-0 game.

In the third period, Kane once again showed his skills. On another power play, Keith collected a puck near the face-off circle after Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn blocked a shot from the point with his skate. Keith’s shot was stopped in front, but Kane once again was lingering near the crease and popped home the rebound to give the hawks’ their 4-0 advantage.

Guys like Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell are generally known as the “crash the net” types, but in this case, it was Kane doing the dirty work.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Bites: Briggs Left Locker Room During Yelling Match]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 09:02:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Giants-Bears-TNF.jpg

In this Wednesday edition of Bears Bites, we put a bow on what happened in the team’s locker room after Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins, get Phil Emery’s take on how the coaching staff is doing, and see which player the New England Patriots will be missing on Sunday in Foxboro.

-We start out with Sunday’s brouhaha in the Bears’ locker room following their loss to the Dolphins. While Brandon Marshall and others were getting an early start on Festivus, Lance Briggs apparently walked out of the room. [Chicago Sun-Times]

-In his weekly appearance on “Inside the NFL”, Marshall told the panel that everything is good between him and quarterback Jay Cutler. He ended up thanking Cutler for helping him build a condo. [CSN Chicago]

-Emery gave Marc Trestman a vote of confidence despite the team’s 3-4 record, saying that he has “complete trust” in the coaching staff to turn things around. [CBS Chicago]

-Can Trestman be forceful enough with the Bears to deal with the locker room friction that’s enveloping the team? One Chicago area columnist doesn’t see it as a likely scenario. [Daily Herald]

-What do the Bears need to address before their game against the Patriots? Michael C. Wright hits the film room. [ESPN Chicago]

-Finally, the Patriots will be without their best pass-rusher, as defensive end Chandler Jones (brother of Bears linebacker Christian Jones) will be out for at least a month after injuring himself against the New York Jets last week. [Chicago Tribune]



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks Ground Flyers in 4-0 Win ]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 22:30:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/167*120/457623210.jpg

Antti Raanta stopped all 32 shots that he faced, and Patrick Kane picked up a pair of power play goals as the Chicago Blackhawks grounded the Philadelphia Flyers in a 4-0 shutout on Tuesday night.

Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad each picked up goals for the Hawks, and Steve Mason made 39 saves for the Flyers in the loss. The victory pushes the Blackhawks’ point streak to five games as they wrap up a successful homestand.

The game opened up with the Blackhawks dominating possession in the first period once again, and they came close on several occasions to scoring the first goal. Johnny Oduya got a nice pass from Kane in the middle of the ice, but Mason was there to make the stop. Kane feathered another pass to Kris Versteeg a few minutes later, but he fired it right into the “P” insignia on Mason’s chest to keep things scoreless.

After all of those chances, it was the team’s third line that ultimately came through with a goal. After Saad bounced a pass off the boards, Bickell made his way down the ice and pushed a pass over to Saad in the middle of the ice. Mason made the initial save, and then made another one on Brad Richards. Richards’ follow-up shot was also stopped, but as the puck lay in the crease behind Mason, Saad pounced on it and pushed it across the goal line to make it 1-0 Blackhawks.

After a bad penalty by Michael Raffl, the Hawks went on the power play and immediately extended their advantage to two goals. Patrick Sharp fired a shot from the point that went just wide, and when the puck ricocheted off the boards, Kane was there to clean up the mess as he popped the rebound in to make it a 2-0 game.

Raanta made a couple of big saves in the moments following the goal, robbing Raffl after a rebound found his stick. A few moments later, the Hawks thanked him by scoring again, with Bickell ripping a shot past Mason and just inside the far post to make it a 3-0 game.

The Flyers had a nice push to end the first period, with Raffl once again being denied and Jakub Voracek getting his first big shot of the game, which was also stopped by Raanta. The Blackhawks were looking to get out of the period unscathed, but they surrendered a power play to Philadelphia as Versteeg committed an offensive zone penalty with six seconds remaining.

The second period began with Philadelphia on the man-advantage, but their only good chance went by the wayside as Voracek got a breakaway that Raanta stopped easily to keep the lead at three games.

As the frame wore on, the Flyers continued to fire away at Raanta, but the young goaltender continued to make save after save. Claude Giroux got a great chance off a touch pass from Raffl, but Raanta kicked across the crease and made the save. The next trip down the ice, Michael del Zotto pushed a pass over to a rushing Giroux, but once again Raanta stopped the one-timer to keep his shutout intact.

The Blackhawks did get a few chances late in the period, but none of them got past Mason. Ben Smith tipped a Niklas Hjalmarsson shot just wide of the net, and a few moments later Saad and Marian Hossa both barely missed picking up a rebound chance when a shot went off the boards. Versteeg had one final chance off a nice pass from Smith, but Mason denied it to keep the game at 3-0 after two periods.

Just two and a half minutes into the third period, the Blackhawks got another power play as Blair Jones was whistled for charging, and they made Philadelphia pay. Luke Schenn blocked a shot in front, and Duncan Keith pounced on it. His chance didn’t go, but Kane was there to pick up the rebound and the goal, giving Chicago a 4-0 edge.

The Flyers got a few more chances late in the game, but they weren’t able to put one past Raanta. Voracek had a couple of good ones, but the goaltender made both saves to preserve his shutout and an emphatic victory for the Hawks.

The Blackhawks will hit the road on Thursday night when they take on the Nashville Predators for the first contest of a quick two game trip. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Polite" Librarians Talk World Series Smack]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 16:59:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lib-th.jpg

You know things are getting intense when public librarians start talking smack about the World Series.

In a series of back-and-forth tweets, the city librarians in San Francisco and Kansas City began taunting each other – with book titles, of course – over which team is going to win Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday, the Giants or the Royals.

"We're polite but fierce!" the San Francisco library tweeted. "Get ready to cry some blue tears for @Royals when @SFGiants take the win tonight."

Michelle Jeffers, the social media guru for the San Francisco library and the mastermind of the tweets, had an obvious answer for why she was dissing the Kansas City library 1,500 miles away.

"Well, they started it," she said with a laugh.

In fact, they did. At 11 a.m., the Kansas City Public Library, tweeted: "Hey @SFPublicLibrary we have a book for you!" The link showed this title: "So, You Think You Know Baseball? A Fan's Guide to the Offical Rules," by Peter E. Meltzer.

"What? They think we don't know the rules?" Jeffers joked.

Liesl Christman, the digital contest specialist at the Kansas City library, happily admitted to "starting it." And she said she chose the baseball rules book while flipping through the catalog, trying decide what bibliophile zinger to fling.

"Yeah, I was hoping to get a response," Christman said from Kansas City by phone. "I just didn't realize it was going to go on so long."

The Twitter tete-a-tete went on for so long, partly, because Jeffers wasn't going to take it lying down.

She shot back: "Thanks, but maybe you should read this." And she sent them a link to Dan Fost's book, "The Giants Baseball Experience: A Year-by-Year Chronicle from New York to San Francisco."

Kansas City took aim again, pointing out that the Giants haven't always been in San Francisco - the team was once a favorite in the Big Apple. Christman tweeted a stack of "fairy tale" books with the hashtag #TaketheCrown.

Jeffers fired off another dig, albeit a courteous one, simply stating that the Giants history has been amazing "coast to coast."

"I didn't want to diss them too bad," Jeffers said. "I was trying to be polite because we're librarians here."


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<![CDATA[Cowboys Waive Michael Sam]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:37:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GERRY_MCCARTHY__1409761483_39578161-620x503.jpg

The Dallas Cowboys have waived defensive end Michael Sam, the NFL's first openly-gay player, from the team's practice squad.

Sam, 24, joined the Cowboys on Sept. 3 after being cut from the Rams. He was drafted by St. Louis in the 7th round and totaled nine tackles and three sacks in three preseason games before being cut by the Rams. 

He never played in a game for the Cowboys and the team has not released a statement on his departure.

After the announcement, Sam tweeted thanks to team owner Jerry Jones for the opportunity, as well as friends, family, teammates and fans.  He added he was disappointed, but looked forward to fight for an opportunity to play every Sunday in the NFL.

According to DallasCowboys.com, the release of Sam makes room for linebacker Troy Davis who worked out with the team Monday.

Sam is a Texas native who played high school football at Hitchcock High School before playing for Missouri.  While at Missouri, he was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and had 11 1/2 sacks in the 2013 season.

The 6-1 Cowboys are off to their best start since 2007 when then finished the regular season at 13-3.  Monday night they'll face an NFC East rival, the 2-5 Washington Redskins, in Arlington.



Photo Credit: Gerry McCarthy / Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer
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<![CDATA[Blackhawks' Goal Horn Rated as Best in NHL]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:04:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/495182647.jpg

While sports teams across North America have traditions involving songs (think “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at Cubs games, or “Bear Down Chicago Bears” when the Bears score a touchdown), there is no sport that has embraced music quite like the NHL has.

That’s because all 30 teams not only have a unique goal horn that blares when their team scores, but they also have a song that goes along with it to enhance the celebration. The Chicago Blackhawks’ contribution to that tradition is a serious one, as they were the first team in the league to begin using a horn to punctuate goals.

It is perhaps not a surprise then that Sports Illustrated (with the help of the awesome website “We Just Scored”) has picked the Hawks’ goal horn and song as the best combo in the league. Here’s what they had to say about it:

“You can hate the Hawks, but there’s no denying The Fratellis and the hook-filled power pop glory of “Chelsea Dagger.” An inherently happy tune, it manages to convey a sense of “Yeah, we’re glad we just scored, but we’ve done it before…and we’ll do it again.””

The Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, New York Rangers, and Anaheim Ducks round out the top five, with the Florida Panthers bringing up the rear. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Crawford Out vs. Flyers, Raanta to Start]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:05:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/177*120/456992758.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks will be looking to continue their solid start to the season Tuesday night when they tangle with the Philadelphia Flyers at the United Center, but they will be doing so without their starting goaltender as Corey Crawford will miss the game with an upper-body injury.

Antti Raanta will make his first start of the season Tuesday in place of Crawford, and backing him up will be Scott Darling, who was called up from the Rockford IceHogs. In two games this season in Rockford, Darling has a 2-0-0 record with a 1.44 GAA and a .948 save percentage. He also was perfect for the Blackhawks during the preseason, stopping all 27 shots he faced.

Crawford’s injury (or illness, depending on which member of the Hawks’ organization you’re listening to), comes on the heels of some really solid play to begin the year. He’s started all four games for the Blackhawks so far, posting a 3-0-1 record with a 1.66 GAA and a .926 save percentage. He’s especially looked good when the pressure has been at its highest, helping the Blackhawks to an opening night win over the Dallas Stars, so to lose him now is definitely an unwelcome surprise.

Raanta did play in both games against the Flyers last season, winning in Chicago and dropping an overtime decision in Philadelphia. He allowed five goals on 67 shots against in those two games. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Line Shuffle Continues as Versteeg Joins Second Line]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:30:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/486345985.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks will be getting forward Kris Versteeg back from injury on Tuesday night, and while his 2013-14 struggles with the team certainly have lowered his stock in the eyes of fans, head coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t share those concerns.

Rather than slotting him in on the third line with Brad Richards and Bryan Bickell like many observers figured he would, Quenneville has instead opted to put him with Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane on the second line for Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. That means Brandon Saad will be bumped down to the third line, and Jeremy Morin will be left fighting with Daniel Carcillo for a spot on the fourth line with Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger.

The initial reaction to the move is obviously one of intrigue. Saad and Kane have shown some excellent chemistry together, and while Saad’s numbers don’t necessarily back that up, one only need look back at the 2014 playoffs to see how well these two can work together. Their speed and passing ability complement one another perfectly, and Kane’s ability to carry the puck in, combined with Saad’s two-way ability as a forechecker and scorer, make them a formidable duo.

Even though all of those things are true, it might actually be for the betterment of the team to split them up for now. Richards and Bickell have been struggling in a big way the first four games of the season, getting stuck with some really tough matchups and failing to score as a result. Adding Saad to the mix should open up some space on the ice for them, and if Bickell can resume his net-crashing ways, Saad and Richards should benefit.

As for Versteeg, putting him on the second line is certainly a gamble, but it’s one that makes sense. While a guy like Morin or Smith could slide in if need be, Versteeg is looking to prove that last season’s struggles are behind him, and he’s looking to justify Stan Bowman’s faith in him with a big start to this year. That kind of motivation can drive a skilled player, and that definitely is something to keep an eye on when the team hits the ice Tuesday. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Marshall Calls Bears' Loss to Dolphins "Unacceptable" ]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:01:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/217*120/0d7d41844dbe412a83e1a1217ad964dc.jpg

Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall has always been known as an outspoken person, whether addressing the teams he has played for or whether he’s working to further his advocacy of mental health awareness. That’s why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that after the Bears lost 27-14 to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Marshall made sure the media knew that the players in the locker room were angry about the game:

“There’s a lot of guys this means a lot to. We’re 3-4. We need to play better. That’s unacceptable. That’s unacceptable. We shouldn’t have lost today, shouldn’t be 3-4. [The] offense [has] got to play better. It’s as simple as that.”

The Bears’ offense turned the ball over three times on the afternoon, including a bad interception by Jay Cutler and a fumble by the Bears’ quarterback. A report from Michael C. Wright of ESPN Chicago said that Marshall “called out” Cutler after the game in the locker room, and added this thought:

“Marshall, meanwhile, didn’t deny there was friction in the aftermath of the game.

“’We lost, there should be a lot of frustration,” Marshall said. “You should hear frustration. We’re 3-4. Yeah, this means everything to a lot of guys in this locker room. This means a lot.”

Several reporters said after the game that Marshall could be heard yelling in the locker room behind closed doors, with kicker Robbie Gould being the subject of some of his anger.

While some fans and writers may have the opinion that Marshall’s actions speak to a locker room in disarray, there is a small reason for hope amongst the wreckage of this game. Receivers butting heads with quarterbacks is not a new phenomenon in the NFL, and a guy like Marshall is certainly capable of letting loose if he wants to get a point across.

Cutler has been in the league long enough to know that dealing with teammates is always a delicate balancing act, and what Marshall said doesn’t reek of blaming Cutler or anybody else; it reeks instead of a desire to hold everyone on the team, himself included, accountable for the loss.

This is a pivotal moment for the Bears this season. Will they allow this adversity to cripple their playoff chances, or will they use this as motivation to move forward and improve on their execution and game-planning?

Cutler and Marc Trestman’s reputations could very well be riding on the answer to that question, and if Marshall’s statements are any indication, the Bears’ locker room is aware of the magnitude of the battle that they face. 



Photo Credit: Lutz, BJ (NBCUniversal)]]>
<![CDATA[Dolphins vs. Bears: Three Phase Report Card ]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:40:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/167*120/bears+dolphins+getty30.jpg

In our weekly grading of how the Chicago Bears did, we examine the offensive struggles and defensive lapses that led to Sunday's loss against the Miami Dolphins. 

Offense: C-

The Chicago Bears’ offense is supposed to be one of its strengths, but with their scoring average down to 22 points per game and only scoring 14 points against the Miami Dolphins on their home field, things are not going right for this group at the moment.

The only reason this unit’s grade isn’t even lower is because of Matt Forte. He had 109 all-purpose yards on Sunday, scoring two touchdowns and helping the Bears at least remain somewhat competitive. Outside of him however, things go south in a hurry. Jay Cutler looked awful on Sunday, throwing off his back foot repeatedly and turning the ball over twice in the loss.

Alshon Jeffery was largely absent from the game as well, catching two balls on the first drive of the game and then not coming down with another reception the rest of the way.

All told, the team had just 224 yards of offense in the game, and they only had two first downs in the entire first half. TWO. It was a bad day overall, and one that Marc Trestman and company are going to have to address.

Defense: C

Being expected to play for over 37 minutes is never easy, but the Bears’ defense still has to play better than they did on Sunday. Jeremiah Ratliff was the lone standout of the afternoon, with three and a half sacks to his credit, but those all came in the early stages of the game, and he disappeared in the second half.

Several other players were worthy of criticism after the game, including cornerback Kyle Fuller, who blew a few coverages even before he broke his hand and picked up a hip pointer later in the game. Linebacker Shea McClellin also looked completely lost on the field, vacating gaps and getting pushed aside on run plays all afternoon.

About the only other bright spot on the day was that the Bears held the Dolphins to just four third down conversions in the game. That’s a carry-over from their success against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6, and one they should cling to as they evaluate game film this week.

Special Teams: B+

In what has to be the most surprising sentence we’ve typed so far this season, the Bears’ special teams actually looked really good in this game. They didn’t have a single penalty, Robbie Gould didn’t miss on either of his extra point attempts after having one blocked in the Atlanta game, and most importantly of all, Chris Williams actually broke the 20-yard line on returns twice in the game.

Coaching: F

The impact of coaching in sports is often debated, but there is no way that the coaching staff can escape blame after a loss like this one. Trestman’s offensive game plan was a complete joke, and the results speak for themselves. His decision to let the first half clock run out rather than trying to get the ball back to get a positive result before the break was questionable, and his decision to call timeout on a 4th-and-1 play with 21 seconds left on the play clock was downright laughable.

As for Mel Tucker and the defense, one picture sums up the afternoon pretty well:

It was a scene all too reminiscent of the Buffalo game earlier in the season. The linebackers were vacating gaps, allowing Lamar Miller to savage them. They couldn’t contain Ryan Tannehill on read-option plays. They couldn’t do anything right. It was a bit of regression from Tucker, and it was something that the Bears cannot repeat again if they’re going to have any hope of beating the New England Patriots next week. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Kyle Long Walks Back Criticism of Fans Monday]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:05:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/168*120/456282376.jpg

The Chicago Bears came out of the gate flat and stayed that way in a 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon, and after the game right guard Kyle Long expressed his displeasure at the way fans received the team as they were headed to the locker room at halftime:

Predictably and understandably, the comments left a lot of fans feeling disgruntled. The team had played an abysmal first half of football on both sides of the field, going scoreless in the half and picking up just two first downs. Jay Cutler also threw an interception in the half, and Marc Trestman opted to head to the locker room with his team down 14-0 instead of calling a timeout with a little less than a minute left and two timeouts to use.

After a day to think over his Sunday comments however, Long wisely backtracked a bit and apologized for what he had said:

To be completely honest here, Long was both right and wrong in this situation. Players can be mad at fans for booing, but fans should also be permitted to express their displeasure with the way things are going. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and what Long said and the cascade of boos that the team got fit under that premise.

The other thing that has to be mentioned is that both Long and Lamarr Houston are focusing on the wrong thing if they’re going to focus on fans being “unsupportive.” Their effort on the field, not the fan reaction to the team, is what needs some work, and at least guys like Brandon Marshall seem to get that. If players are going to let themselves be affected by what is said or done by fans or media, then the Bears could be headed down the path to mediocrity rather than a path to success.

Just ask the 2004 Chicago Cubs. 




 



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Hampton: Coach Trestman is on "Shakey Ground"]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:58:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009317234_1200x675_345244227542.jpg 10/19/14: Bears Hall of Famer takes Chicago Bears head coach to task after embarrassing loss to Miami Dolphins.]]> <![CDATA[Who is Leading the Bears?]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:50:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009317145_1200x675_345239619554.jpg 10/19/14: Bears Hall of Famer Dan Hampton says Brandon Marshall is trying to be the leader of the team at a time when the coaches are failing to hold players accountable.]]> <![CDATA[Viewers Respond: Why Can't Bears Win at Home?]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:50:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009317046_1200x675_345240131654.jpg 10/19/14: Sports Sunday viewers take to Facebook and Twitter to answer FanZone question.]]> <![CDATA[Bears Offense Collapses Against Dolphins]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:45:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009316999_1200x675_345239619558.jpg 10/19/14: Bears Hall of Famer Dan Hampton analyzes the Chicago Bears' offensive lineup after a brutal loss to Miami.]]> <![CDATA[Madhouse Enforcer's Central Division Power Rankings: Week 2]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:07:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/175*120/457315830.jpg

Every week, Madhouse Enforcer will take a look around the Central Division and let you know who’s hot and who’s not in our little corner of the hockey world.

1. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week’s Rank: 1)

Despite dropping an overtime decision to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, the Blackhawks retain their top spot in the rankings based on their dominance of possession in their two Week 2 games. They outshot their opponents 87-38 in those games, but that advantage in shots was at least in part due to the fact they got 12 power plays in the two games.

Nonetheless, the Hawks will be looking to improve on their power play and on their finishing around the net as they head into a tough stretch of games. Home tilts against Philadelphia and Ottawa sandwich road tests against the Predators and Blues.

2. Dallas Stars (Last Week’s Rank: 5)

The Stars got off to a rough start to the season, but they rebounded nicely in the second week, grabbing five of the six available points. They scored three times on the power play in wins over the Blue Jackets and Penguins, and they got a hat trick from Tyler Seguin and a four point night from Jason Spezza in the process.

Next week things remain on the easy side for the Stars schedule wise, with tilts against the Canucks, Islanders, and Devils on the docket.

3. St. Louis Blues (Last Week’s Rank: 4)

The Blues are a team that was all over the map last week, with a blowout victory over the lowly Arizona Coyotes and then two resounding defeats at the hands of the Kings and Ducks. St. Louis did outshoot Los Angeles 43-18 in a losing effort, but the fact they couldn’t get the job done was a bit disconcerting.

Unfortunately for St. Louis, things aren’t getting any easier. They only play two games in Week 3, with home tilts against the Canucks and Blackhawks looming, but they will likely be without offseason acquisition Paul Stastny, who is week-to-week with an upper body injury.

4. Minnesota Wild (Last Week’s Rank: 2)

After winning back-to-back games against the Colorado Avalanche to begin the year, Minnesota crashed back to earth with losses to the Ducks and Kings. Overall on the season, they are 0-for-16 on the power play, and they suffered a huge scare when Mikael Granlund was drilled on a late hit by Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler. Fortunately for them, he seemed to be okay, but it reminded them of what life could look like without him.

Minnesota will look to get back on the winning track with a couple of home games this week, playing the Coyotes and Lightning at Xcel Energy Center.

5. Nashville Predators (Last Week’s Rank: 3)

Despite being outshot in three straight games and racking up an 1-0-2 record, the Predators are still one of the more intriguing teams in the NHL. Goaltender Pekka Rinne has a record of 3-0-1 on the season with a 1.23 GAA, but his replacement has been solid as well, as Carter Hutton nearly backstopped the Preds to a win over the Blackhawks.

Three home games loom on the schedule for the Predators this coming week, with the Coyotes, Blackhawks, and Penguins all visiting the Music City.

6. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 7)

The Avs grabbed their first win of the season against the Boston Bruins last week, but they also picked up three more losses in a series of games against Canadian opponents. They are 1-for-22 so far on the power play this season, and to make matters worse, goaltender Semyon Varlamov was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury.

The schedule does offer a bit of a reprieve to the Avalanche in the coming week, with a couple of home games against Florida and Vancouver on the docket. A road game against Winnipeg on Sunday will give them their first taste of divisional hockey since back-to-back shutout losses against Minnesota to open the season.

7. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 6)

Speaking of the Jets, they drop to the bottom of the rankings this week, and while it’s surely comfortable territory for them (they spent a good chunk of last season down there), they at least have one thing going for them: they are 20-of-21 on the penalty kill so far.

Another good thing for the Jets is that goaltender Ondrej Pavelec hasn’t been bad at all, giving up 2.22 goals per game and racking up a .919 save percentage. They do need to improve on their anemic power play however (they are 0-for-14 so far this season), and a game against the Hurricanes to open the week could do the trick.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Best of NFL: Week 7]]> Sun, 19 Oct 2014 22:38:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/457509990.jpg Don't miss the most dramatic images from the seventh week of the 2014 NFL season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Game Photos: Bears vs. Dolphins]]> Sun, 19 Oct 2014 15:24:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/170*120/bears+dolphins+getty2.jpg The Chicago Bears came into Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins looking to win for the first time at home this season, but those plans went up in smoke as they dropped a lackluster 27-14 decision on the lakefront.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Look Listless in 27-14 Loss to Dolphins]]> Sun, 19 Oct 2014 14:57:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/172*120/bears+dolphins+getty.jpg

The Chicago Bears came into Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins looking to win for the first time at home this season, but those plans went up in smoke as they dropped a lackluster 27-14 decision on the lakefront. 

The game got off to a rousing start for both defenses, as two straight three-and-out drives opened the game. Jeremiah Ratliff got the festivities started by sacking Ryan Tannehill on the first play from scrimmage, and Jared Allen grabbed Lamar Miller on second down for a minimal gain. After the Dolphins punted, the Bears threw two straight screen passes, and then on 3rd-and-1 Jay Cutler’s pass to Alshon Jeffery fell incomplete, forcing the Bears to punt.

On the next Miami drive, the Bears’ defense began to yield some yards, and the Dolphins marched down the field to score. Charles Clay snared a deep completion for a key first down, and he ultimately caught the touchdown pass from Tannehill, as Kyle Fuller ran a zone coverage pattern while the rest of the Bears were in zone. Shea McClellin also slipped on the exchange, leaving Clay wide open and the Dolphins with a 7-0 lead with about seven minutes left in the first quarter.

The Bears’ offense made a couple of good plays to start their drive, but ultimately it stalled out thanks to a Cutler sack on third down, and they had to punt again. The Dolphins again moved the ball well to end the first quarter, with Daniel Thomas getting a couple of nice gains.

The Dolphins’ solid run up the field ended up stalling out in Bears territory, with Ratliff picking up his third sack of the game after he read a run play perfectly and got around the edge to stop Tannehill. The Bears also dodged a bullet as the Dolphins missed a field goal, and Chicago got the ball back still down seven points.

Cutler and the Bears began passing the ball down the field to start out their drive, including a nice post pattern to Martellus Bennett underneath the safeties for a first down. On third down, Cutler attempted to throw the ball downfield, but he ended up finding Rashad Jones instead. After a poor tackle attempt by Jeffery, Jones made it all the way down to within the Bears’ 30-yard line to set the Dolphins up. Tannehill then found Mike Wallace in the back of the end zone for a score, and Miami seized a 14-0 lead with about five minutes left.

After nearly throwing another interception, Cutler and the Bears were sent off the field with another unsuccessful drive. Tannehill was able to move the Dolphins a bit, but ended up getting sacked by Ratliff and Jared Allen to finish off the drive. The Bears opted not to call a timeout and allowed the Dolphins to run out the clock on the half.

As the Bears got going in the second half, they finally seemed to remember that Matt Forte was on the team, giving him eight touches on the drive. His first was a 16 yard run, and later on he converted on a fourth down play to extend the drive. Finally, Cutler tossed a nice screen pass to Forte off of a delayed release, and Forte waltzed into the end zone to make it a 14-7 game.

The Dolphins responded to the length drive with one of their own, marching down the field and scoring again to extend their lead back to 14. Tannehill had the biggest play of the drive when he rushed for 30 yards on a 4th-and-1 play in Bears territory. Two plays later, the Dolphins scored on a Miller sweep to the left side, and they took a 21-7 lead with about 30 seconds remaining in the quarter. 

Marshall ended the third quarter with a first down catch, but things quickly went south for the Bears. In a one-on-one matchup with Jordan Mills, Cameron Wake got into the backfield and sacked Cutler, forcing a fumble in the process. The Dolphins ended up recovering, but they were stopped by the Bears’ defense and had to settle for a field goal to make it 24-7.

The Bears turned the ball over again on their next drive, with Dante Rosario doing the honors as Cortland Finnegan punched it loose with his helmet. Miller got several good runs on the drive to help milk the clock for Miami, but a field goal attempt was blocked by Lamarr Houston as the Bears remained down 17 points.

After a good Forte run and a pass interference call on the Dolphins, the Bears were able to cash in to make it a two-possession game. On a third-and-goal play from the one-yard line, Forte punched the ball in between the tackle and guard on the right side of the line, and with seven and a half minutes to go, the Bears trailed 24-14. 

The Dolphins did a nice job of moving the ball down the field on their next drive, with Miller leading the way with a couple more solid rushes. He got into the end zone toward the end of the possession, but a holding call on Clay wiped it out. The Dolphins ended up having to settle for a field goal with just over two minutes remaining in the game, giving themselves a 13 point lead.

Chris Williams got the Bears some great field position by returning the ensuing kick-off to the 45-yard line, and despite some early struggles, Forte snared a first down catch to convert on fourth down. After that play however, things were stopped up again, as several passes to Marshall and Bennett fell incomplete. The last play of the game for the Bears saw Marshall lose on a jump ball against Finnegan, turning the ball back over to the Dolphins and ending the contest.

The Bears will look to show their road-warrior skills next Sunday when they take on the New England Patriots in Foxboro. The game will be their final one before their Week 9 bye.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[3 Stars: Toews, Oduya Key as Hawks Down Predators]]> Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:32:06 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*121/456942532.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks have outshot their last two opponents by a margin of 87-38, but after a Wednesday loss to the Calgary Flames, Saturday night’s outcome was more positive as a Jonathan Toews short-handed goal in overtime gave them a 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators.

There were some things that were negative about the game, but in this edition of Three Stars, we’ll focus on the positives.

Third Star: Trevor van Riemsdyk

One of the downsides of being a rookie in the NHL is that you don’t really have a set place in a lineup, and van Riemsdyk found that out the hard way on Saturday night, as he was taken off of a pairing with Niklas Hjalmarsson and united with Michal Rozsival.

Instead of worrying about the change in partner, van Riemsdyk seemed to thrive, making a couple of sterling defensive plays that displayed his patience and his skillset. The first came early in the first period, as Seth Jones bore down on the Blackhawks net. After the Nashville defenseman intercepted a pass from Patrick Sharp, he turned up ice and got a clean release across the blue line. Using his speed, van Riemsdyk chased down Jones and tied him up near the net, preventing a shot on goal.

For good measure, van Riemsdyk then intercepted a pass from Jones behind the net to prevent a follow-up opportunity, and the Hawks maintained their early 1-0 lead.

Later in the game, van Riemsdyk made another nice play when he intercepted a cross-ice pass by Derek Roy, who was looking for a trailer in the offensive zone. Add to that the occasions that the rookie cleared the puck from in front of the net to limit rebound chances, and you have arguably the most impressive game that he has played in his young NHL career.

Second Star: Johnny Oduya

Speaking of defensemen who were instrumental in the Hawks’ Saturday win, Oduya played a really solid game at both ends of the ice. His first period goal got the ball rolling in a big way for the Hawks, as he likely took Carter Hutton by surprise as he rifled a slap shot from the top of the face-off circle. The puck ended up squirting between Hutton’s leg pads, and the Hawks got a 1-0 lead on their first shot of the game.

In the second period, Oduya made his presence known on the defensive side of things as well. With Nashville forward James Neal bearing down on Corey Crawford, Oduya quickly got into position and tied up Neal’s stick, preventing a breakaway opportunity and helping keep the contest tied.

Being reunited with Hjalmarsson was something that felt inevitable ever since Joel Quenneville separated the pairing, and Oduya certainly proved that he is really happy to have his running mate back.

First Star: Jonathan Toews

Even before his game-winning short-handed goal in overtime, Toews and the first line were arguably the best group on the ice (although the fourth line of Daniel Carcillo, Ben Smith, and Marcus Kruger generated a ton of chances in limited action). Overall, the group attempted 14 shots on goal in the game, and they largely carried possession whenever they were on the ice.

Ultimately though, it was Toews’ ability at both ends of the ice that paid the most dividends as he scored the winner. When Craig Smith attempted a drop pass to Roman Josi at the point on the Predators’ overtime power play, Toews read the pass, intercepted it, and carried it down ice on a breakaway.

Toews’ first shot on net was stopped by Hutton, but the goaltender was unable to corral the puck. With the rebound yielded, Toews tapped the puck between Hutton’s skates, and the United Center erupted as the Hawks secured their third victory of the young campaign. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[OT Goal Gives Blackhawks 2-1 Victory Over Predators]]> Sat, 18 Oct 2014 23:24:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/175*120/457315830.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks scored on their two most important shots of the game on Saturday night, with Johnny Oduya scoring on the first shot of the game and Jonathan Toews scoring on the last as they beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 2-1 at the United Center.

Former Blackhawk Carter Hutton made 35 saves in a losing effort for the Predators, and current Hawks goalie Corey Crawford made 19 saves as the team moved to 3-0-1 on the young season. Shea Weber scored the only goal of the game for Nashville on a first period power play.

As the game opened up, the Hawks’ struggles to score despite a slew of chances Wednesday were quickly forgotten as Oduya scored less than two minutes into the contest. After Bryan Bickell and Niklas Hjalmarsson moved the puck across the ice to the defenseman, he stepped across the blue line and uncorked a slapshot from the top of the face-off circle. Hutton couldn’t quite get his leg pads together fast enough, and just like that the Blackhawks went up 1-0 in the game.

A couple of good defensive plays by the Blackhawks kept things going in their favor over the next few minutes, and their defensive dominance was a theme that was repeated through most of the game. Daniel Carcillo made a good play to break up a cross-ice saucer pass after Jeremy Morin was taken down along the boards, and Trevor van Riemsdyk made another nice play a few minutes later as he tied up Seth Jones on a semi-breakaway toward the Chicago net.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, their defensive play didn’t translate into an overall disciplined approach, and it cost them with about nine minutes left in the first. With penalties to Andrew Shaw and Hjalmarsson giving Nashville a power play, Weber unleashed a slap shot from in close that deflected off of Michal Rozsival’s skate and into the top of the net to tie things up at 1-1.

The Blackhawks did get another power play a few minutes later, but in what is becoming a recurring theme, they were unable to score. They did hold Nashville to just three shots on goal in the period, but with Weber’s tally things were tied at 1-1 at the end of the first period.

The second period started out in much the same way as the first, with the Hawks playing solid defense and getting good offensive chances at the other end of the ice. Marcus Kruger found Hjalmarsson open in front of the net with a quick pass, but the defenseman couldn’t corral it in time to get an effective shot off, getting stopped by Hutton. A few moments later, Oduya made a solid defensive play as he tied up James Neal on the rush to prevent Nashville from getting an easy cscoring chance.

After another stellar play by van Riemsdyk to keep Derek Roy from finding an open man with a pass, the Hawks went back on the power play and couldn’t convert again. In fact, they failed three consecutive times on the man-advantage in the second period, with penalties to Viktor Stalberg, Filip Forsberg, and Mike Ribeiro all going unpunished.

Duncan Keith committed a penalty late in the second to give Nashville a power play chance, but good defense kept the Predators from mounting much of a charge as the game remained tied at 1-1 through two periods.

As the third got underway, the Hawks’ first line continued to churn out chances, but to no avail. Marian Hossa carried the puck in on a 3-on-1 rush early in the frame, but his pass across to Toews was timed just a touch too late, and the shot was hurried and ineffective.

After that play, the Predators generated a couple of great chances of their own in the ensuing few minutes, but Crawford was there to save the day. On a 2-on-0 chance in front, Colin Wilson fed a pass across the zone to Craig Smith, but Crawford kicked out his right leg pad to make the save. A few minutes later, Crawford had to come out of the net to challenge a wrist shot by Weber, but his blocker was able to knock the shot aside and keep the game tied.

Patrick Sharp racked up a few chances in the closing minutes of regulation, but the Hawks couldn’t convert. He blasted a shot on Hutton from in close, but the rebound barely evaded a crashing Toews. With 30 seconds remaining, Sharp had another shot on net, and once again Toews couldn’t corral it. Despite outshooting the Predators 34-17 in regulation, the Hawks once again had to settle for overtime as the game remained tied.

In the overtime period, Sharp once again took center stage, but this time it was for the wrong reasons as he was sent to the box for tripping Ryan Ellis. Fortunately for Sharp and the Hawks, the team’s captain was there to pick up the pieces, as he scored the game-winner. When Smith tried to drop a pass back to Roman Josi at the point, Toews intercepted the pass, pushed it up ice, and got two shots on goal. The first was saved by Hutton, but when the rebound squirted out to the top of the crease, Toews tapped it in and gave the Hawks a 2-1 win.

The Blackhawks will wrap up a four game homestand on Tuesday night when they welcome the Philadelphia Flyers to the United Center. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["War Machine" Attempts Suicide: PD]]> Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:54:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/War-Machine-vegas-MMA.jpg

A professional mixed martial arts fighter accused of beating his porn star ex-girlfriend and one of her male friends tried to commit suicide in a Las Vegas jail, authorities said.

Jonathan "War Machine" Koppenhaver, 32, was found Tuesday in a cell at the Clark County Detention Center sitting on the floor with his feet resting on the bunk, Las Vegas Metropolitan police said in a statement.

The officer noticed what appeared to be a torn piece of linen around his neck that was tied to the leg of his bunk, police said.

The officer called to Koppenhaver several times, but he did not respond, according to police. When the officer went inside the cell he noticed that Koppenhaver was struggling to breathe, police said.

The officer cut the ligature from Koppenhaver’s neck and his breathing became less strained and he started to speak, police said.

Koppenhaver was moved to a medical isolation cell, where he was placed on suicide watch.

Police said they found a suicide note inside Koppenhaver’s cell.

Koppenhaver, a former porn actor, was booked into Clark County jail in August.

He's accused of beating adult film actress Christy Mack and her male friend at a Las Vegas home on Aug. 8 before fleeing to the Los Angeles suburb of Simi Valley, where he was arrested a week later.

Koppenhaver faces charges including attempted murder and dozens of assault counts.

Koppenhaver made his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut in 2007 and legally changed his name in 2008. He lost his only pay-per-view bout that same year.

He fought out of San Diego for a variety of promotions and had a 14-5 record as a welterweight. He lost his last fight, in Iowa, last October.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Simi Valley Police/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Hawks Headlines: Sidney Crosby Emulating Patrick Kane]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 10:40:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/495442373.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks are off until Saturday, but we still have some stories to share with you in this Friday edition of Hawks Headlines.

-We start out with an interesting post by Nina Falcone, who discussed the way that Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby is trying to emulate Patrick Kane. [CSN Chicago]

-We have a couple of posts about Andrew Shaw to share, including one about how he’s working on improving his performance in front of the net as he tries to re-direct shots. [Daily Herald]

-Shaw is also working hard on his face-off ability, as he looks to become an all-around better player as the team’s second line center. [Chicago Sun-Times]

-The Blackhawks had 50 shots on goal in Wednesday’s loss to the Calgary Flames, but they simply couldn’t finish the job. Scott Powers has more. [ESPN Chicago]

-If there has been one big surprise so far this season for the Blackhawks, it has been the play of defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk. [Chicago Tribune]

-Wrestlers CM Punk and AJ Lee were at the Blackhawks game on Wednesday, and a fan claims that the duo was rude to him when he asked for a picture. [WrestleZone]

-Finally, if you’ve ever wondered what goal songs other NHL teams use, this website has you covered. They have the goal horns for all 30 teams, as well as the famous Brass Bonanza song from the Hartford Whalers. [We Just Scored]



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Is Matt Forte a Hall of Famer? ]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 09:24:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/455515072.jpg

In this Friday edition of Bears Bites, we check out the Hall of Fame candidacy of Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, what the keys will be for the Bears as they prepare to face the Miami Dolphins, and examine just good Jeremiah Ratliff has been this season.

-We start out with Dan Durkin (@djdurkin on Twitter), who wrote up an interesting piece about the numbers that Forte has put up so far in his career. Do they make him a Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate? [CBS Chicago]

-We turn our attention back to the task at hand for the Bears Sunday as they look to win their first game on home turf this week. What will be the key to beating Miami? Bob Warja (@bobwarja) has five keys to victory. [Chicago Bears Huddle]

-On Thursday, a significant event occurred at Bears practice: the offensive line had all five starters practicing together for the first time since Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills. John Mullin (@csnmoonmullin) has more. [CSN Chicago]

-Jay Cutler has taken some big hits during his time with the Bears, but just about every time he gets hit he gets back up, and he addressed that toughness this week. [Daily Herald]

-There was an interesting article this week about the amount of time that players and coaches spend on TV during NFL games, and surprisingly, Cutler was near the bottom of the list. Marc Trestman was too. [ESPN Chicago]

-The Bears were missing four of their starting linebackers on Sunday when they beat the Atlanta Falcons, and a good chunk of the credit for their strong performance has to go to linebackers coach Reggie Herring. [Chicago Sun-Times]

-Just how good has defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff been for the Bears this season? Let’s count the ways. [Chicago Tribune]

-In the Bears’ Week 6 victory over the Falcons, the Georgia Dome was so loud that a team had to use a silent snap count. No, it wasn’t the Bears that were affected by the noise. It was the Falcons, whose signals were getting drowned out by the thousands of Bears fans in attendance. [Da Windy City]

-Finally, we get a view of the Dolphins-Bears matchup from an outside perspective. [Sun-Sentinel]



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks Waive Kyle Cumiskey, Trim Roster to 22]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 16:37:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/171*120/456609836.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks came into the regular season carrying eight defensemen on their roster, but apparently they won’t continue that trend because they have placed Kyle Cumiskey on waivers:

Odds are that the move is designed to send him down to the Rockford IceHogs, but more importantly than where Cumiskey is going is what the move represents. The team went into the season thinking that Cumiskey would be a good insurance policy for rookie blue liner Trevor van Riemsdyk, but over his first three games of the season, the youngster has shown talent at both ends of the ice.

His passing ability has been top-notch, and he has created plenty of scoring chances despite not getting a point yet in his young career. He leads the team’s defensemen in Corsi On-Ice at 48.14, and he also has the best Corsi Relative at 40.6. Part of that is helped by the fact that he’s played some sheltered minutes (he’s started 60% of his shifts in the offensive zone), but in playing with Niklas Hjalmarsson, the rookie has proven that there was a good reason the team held onto him for the start of the season.

With van Riemsdyk’s performance in mind, another question with Cumiskey out of the picture is how Joel Quenneville is going to handle the defensive pairings when Michal Rozsival returns. Will he slide into the lineup on a regular basis, leaving van Riemsdyk to rotate with David Rundblad, or will all three players cycle in and out until one of them grabs firm hold of the fifth defensive spot?

The Blackhawks still have a nice stretch of time where they aren’t playing a lot of games (their first set of back-to-back games isn’t until October 25 and 26), so keeping all seven defensemen fresh is going to be an interesting balancing act. 



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<![CDATA[McNabb Calls Cutler "Tony Romo of the Midwest" ]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 12:57:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Donovan+MCNabb+Waves+to+Fans.jpg

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler gets tagged with a lot of criticism, but oftentimes it’s not as aggressive as the verbal volleys that former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb lobbed at him on Thursday morning.

In an interview with the “Kap and Haugh” radio show, McNabb called Cutler the “Tony Romo of the Midwest,” and talked about how Cutler’s penchant for mistakes hurts the Bears:

“He can put up 280, 340 yards passing, but you look across the board he’s got two interceptions in a game that cost them 14 points or so. That hurts a football team……A quarterback is measured by your body of work, meaning your wins and losses record, the numbers you put up. And the end-all-be-all is how many playoff wins do you have? If you only have one to show for almost a decade of play that means you can’t lead your team to the playoffs.”

Leading his team to the playoffs is one thing that McNabb did, appearing in 15 playoff games with the Eagles. Once he got there however, he posted an 8-7 record, losing in the NFC Championship Game four times and losing in the Super Bowl in 2004 to the New England Patriots.

In the 2002 NFC Championship game, McNabb threw an interception and lost a fumble as the Eagles lost 29-24 to the St. Louis Rams. In the 2003 title game, McNabb threw another interception and lost two fumbles as the Eagles fell again, this time to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Finally, in the 2004 game against the Carolina Panthers, McNabb threw three interceptions as the Eagles lost 14-3. He also threw an interception and lost a fumble in the 2009 NFC Championship Game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Looking at just his record, it’s clear that McNabb knew how to get his team to the playoffs. He even won a good number of games and made it to a Super Bowl, both of which are things Cutler admittedly hasn’t accomplished. The reality of course is that McNabb is throwing stones in a glass house, based on his failures on the sport’s biggest stages.

This notion that McNabb is an authority on what makes a quarterback a “winner” is simply laughable. His Eagles teams routinely failed when the pressure was at its highest, and it all started with their signal caller. His criticism of Cutler does have some merit, but before NFL fans parrot what he said, they have to consider the source. 



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<![CDATA[Cubs Prospects Russell, Vogelbach Struggling in Arizona Fall League]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 09:44:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/179*120/479187143.jpg

The Chicago Cubs are a team with a slew of young prospects and plenty of optimism heading toward the future, but in the first few games of Arizona Fall League play, things are starting out rough for some of the team’s brightest stars.

Shortstop Addison Russell, who is the fourth-rated prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com, is batting just .182 in 11 at-bats thus far for the Mesa Solar Sox. He does have two RBI and has stolen a base, but his bat has been far from perfect in the early going.

Joining Russell on the struggle train are outfielder Jacob Hannemann, who is just 1-for-10 with four strikeouts, and first baseman Dan Vogelbach, who is now batting a measly .091 with seven strikeouts on the young season.

In Monday’s game, a 2-1 loss to the Scottsdale Scorpions, the Cubs’ prospects once again collectively struggled at the plate. Overall in the game they went 1-for-11, with Russell’s single in the sixth inning being the only hit. Vogelbach struck out twice in the game, and Hannemann struck out with the bases loaded in the top of the eighth inning to end a potential rally for the Solar Sox.

All of those things are bad, but fortunately for the Cubs, Monday’s game did bring some good news. Russell showed off his elite-level defense on several plays and helped keep the Solar Sox in the game. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Blake Miller muscled a blooper toward the right field foul line. On a dead sprint, Russell was able to get from his spot at second base all the way to the ball, making a running catch and preventing an extra base hit.

In the bottom of the seventh, Russell showed that he has a great arm as well. On a 1-1 pitch, Elias Diaz smacked a ball back up the middle of the diamond just to the right of the second base bag. Sliding on one knee, Russell was able to pick the ball cleanly on his backhand, and from that knee he was able to fire a throw over to first that Vogelbach fielded on one hop and retired the runner.

The news on Russell’s defense isn’t the only good news for the Cubs so far in AFL play. Pitcher Ivan Pineyro has pitched an inning and a third of shutout baseball thus far, walking two batters and picking up a strikeout for the Solar Sox. CJ Edwards has also been solid, starting one game and allowing one earned run and striking out a batter in two innings.

The Solar Sox, whose record currently stands at 1-4, still have plenty of time to turn things around. They will be playing games through mid-November, with the championship game slated for November 15. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hossa Misses Practice, but Should Play Wednesday vs. Flames]]> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 14:44:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/171*120/456992906.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks have had several days off since they blew out the Buffalo Sabres by a 6-2 margin on Saturday night, and in the intervening days they have gotten some good news on the injury front for several players.

Marian Hossa, who had a goal and five shots on net in the Saturday win, wasn’t skating with the Blackhawks during Tuesday’s practice, but head coach Joel Quenneville said that he should be able to go on Wednesday night when the Hawks play the Calgary Flames.

Just four points shy of 1000 in his NHL career, Hossa has missed 18 games over the past two seasons, so it’s good to hear that injuries aren’t hampering him this early in the season.

As for the Blackhawks who have been on the shelf in the early-going, they both received some good news after Tuesday’s skate. Defenseman Michal Rozsival, who is dealing with an upper body injury that has kept him out of the first two games of the year, skated with the Hawks Tuesday on a pairing with Duncan Keith and could return this weekend against the Nashville Predators.

Kris Versteeg has also missed the first two games of the season with a lower body injury, but he too is closer to returning. He wasn’t on the ice for practice Tuesday, but Quenneville said that he will likely begin skating this weekend. The Hawks currently have 12 healthy forwards on their roster, so the sooner they can get Versteeg back, the better.

In other news that will surprise no one, Quenneville also announced that Corey Crawford will start again for the team on Wednesday against the Flames. He has allowed four goals so far this season in wins over the Dallas Stars and Sabres. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>