Bears

2012 inductees to U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame

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2012 inductees to U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame

From Comcast SportsNet
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Eddie Olczyk remembers the series as if it was yesterday. It was the spring of 1994, and his New York Rangers outlasted the New Jersey Devils in a thrilling, seven-game series to secure the Eastern Conference title. The Rangers went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Devils went home. But Olczyk figured the latter would be back soon. "You just knew it," Olczyk said. "With Lou Lamoriello in charge, and because of his leadership, you knew they were on the verge of something special. There was no question about it." He was right. And on Wednesday, the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame honored both for their accomplishments. Lamoriello, New Jersey's longtime general manager, who has led the Devils to three Stanley Cup titles and five Eastern Conference crowns, was named to this year's induction class. Joining Lamoriello as part of the class that will be enshrined in the fall, is Olczyk, now an analyst for NBC Sports, as well as Mike Modano, who won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars. "Without a doubt, it's a great honor," Olczyk said. "To be in the same class as professionals like Mike and Lou certainly makes it a great day." Since Lamoriello took over in 1987, the Devils have secured nine division titles and won the Cup in 1995, 2000, and 2003. New Jersey, as a No. 6 seed this season, defeated the Panthers, Flyers and Rangers to advance to their fifth Cup final last month. "The common denominators there are the defense, (goaltender) Marty Brodeur, and Mr. Lamoriello," Olczyk said. "He has proven over the years, through a lot of change, that he can keep the Devils in contention every year." Modano, who lost the Cup finals to New Jersey in 2000 as a member of the Stars, played in 21 NHL seasons. He finished with 561 goals and 1,374 points, and holds the record for most postseason points (145) by an American. His Stars defeated Buffalo in the 1999 Cup finals. Olczyk was the third overall pick of the 1984 draft by Chicago, and played for 16 years with the Blackhawks, Maple Leafs, Jets, Rangers, Kings and Penguins. "This is definitely one of the highlights of my career," Olczyk said. "Fortunately, for me, I've been very lucky to wear a bunch of different hats in this game, and I still feel like I have a lot more to give." Olczyk finished with 342 goals and 794 points in 1,031 games. His Rangers defeated Vancouver in 1994 to win the Cup. In 1985-86, with Chicago, he had 29 goals and 79 points as a 19-year-old. "Eddie's positive impact is felt through the entire organization, starting from the youth hockey level all the way to our players, coaches and front office staff," Blackhawks president John McDonough said. "He is a great ambassador for the game of hockey and the city of Chicago."

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

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USA Today

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

Mitchell Trubisky shook his head and grinned when he fielded yet another question this week about the touchdown pass Tarik Cohen threw against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Dang, you guys can’t get enough of this,” Trubisky said. “I talked about it after the game. Dowell (Loggains) was saying it was the best pass of the game. I’m like, ‘All right, geez, let him play quarterback.

“… He threw a dime ball. I love how he was fading away on it and celebrating on the 50-yard line. Zach (Miller) made a great catch. So A-plus; really impressive spiral, especially with the gloves on. Can’t count any of that out. Tarik’s a special player and it was an awesome throw.”

The point here is less about Cohen’s throw and more about the Bears finding yet another way for the rookie running back to make an impact. So far this year, Cohen has rushed 50 times, caught 26 passes, returned 14 punts and now thrown that historic touchdown. He’s been asked to block in pass protection more frequently, allowing him to be on the field more. And he’s worked with wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and Kendall Wright (who Cohen referred to as another receiver coach for him) to expand his route tree, leading him to be the most-targeted player (33 targets) on the Bears through six weeks. 

That may seem like a lot to put on the plate of a fourth-round draft pick from an FCS school, but it hasn’t been too much for Cohen. 

“We need Tarik to be that guy for us — the best playmaker we have,” Loggains said. “There’s no secret there. And he’s a guy who we’ll continue to use, and people are aware of him. So how creative can we get with him? How many different things can we do with him? 

“Like, we’re stretching him. Mentally, he’s stretched to the max playing all these positions — motioning out to wide receiver, playing running back and doing more in the backfield with more carries. So we have to keep stretching him and keep using him in the offense.”

Opposing defenses have keyed on Cohen since his explosive debut Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, scheming to muffle his playmaking ability. But he still managed to nearly have a walk-off 73-yard run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, and then in Week 6, with defenses figuring they could crash down on him on sweep plays to the edge, he (literally) threw another wrinkle into how to gameplan against him. The next time the Bears run a toss sweep to Cohen, opposing safeties will have to think twice about bolting toward the line of scrimmage to stop him. 

Every time Cohen seems to hit a rookie wall, he and the Bears find a way to knock it down. The discussion a week ago about Cohen was that he was dancing too much and not cutting upfield quick enough; this week, it’s all about his perfect quarterback rating. 

“Our coaches do a good job of continuing to put him in places so he can be successful,” fellow running back Benny Cunningham said. “But ultimately I feel like he has such a genuine love of the game, I don’t see that happening (hitting the wall). Since the day he’s been here, from Day 1 to today, I’ve seen no drop-off in his desire to be successful and to help this offense.”

The Bears have known this about Cohen's mentality since they scouted and drafted him back in the spring, and his potential only blossomed after getting him into Halas Hall in May — “Early on, we knew Tarik was going to be pretty special,” coach John Fox said. But Cohen wouldn’t be able to reach that potential without the ability to handle the responsibilities of all the different tasks the Bears have asked of him so far. 

Cohen’s ability to do so many different things makes him an important player for this team, and his ability to do them with an exciting, playmaking flair has made him a fan favorite since training camp. So what’s next for the 5-foot-6 rookie?

“I think we’ve got something — I’ll punt the ball this week,” Cohen joked. “Naw, I’m playin’. I can’t put the ball for nothing, I don’t think. It’ll probably go like 20 yards.”

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

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USA Today

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

Nick Kwiatkoski was a full participant in Bears practice on Friday, marking the first time the second-year linebacker has done that since he suffered a pec injury Sept. 17 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, Kwiatkoski sounded confident he could make his return five weeks after suffering that painful injury. 

“It’s not really my decision,” Kwiatkoski said. “I’m preparing like I am, so we’ll see. … “In my head I am (playing). But we’ll see.”

The Bears’ defense, despite placing three key players — linebackers Willie Young and Jerrell Freeman and safety Quintin Demps — on injured reserve, has been solid at worst so far this year. Pro Football Focus has Vic Fangio’s group as the third-best defense in the NFL through Week 6, behind only the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. 

While Christian Jones played some quality snaps next to Danny Trevathan (and John Timu — he struggled after Timu’s injury against Minnesota), Kwiatkoski represents an upgrade at inside linebacker. The Bears liked what Kwiatkoski did last year in place of an injured Trevathan, and were confident they wouldn’t miss a beat with him filling in after Freeman’s Week 1 injury. 

“He’s a smart guy who has been willing to work,” coach John Fox said. “And I’ve seen that improvement from last year to this year. And anytime you get whacked or injured or taken out for some reason, you’ve got to kind of regain that again. It’s like a do-over. So he has had a good week.”

Kwiatkoski stayed sharp by going through meetings and film study as if he were playing while that pec injury — which he said felt like a “bad pulled muscle” — kept him sidelined for practices and games. If Kwiatkoski indeed is active and/or starting Sunday against Carolina, the hope is he can step in and pick up where he left off in Week 2. 

“I have all the confidence that he'll do fine,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said prior to Kwiatkoski’s injury. And that confidence, in all likelihood, still exists.