Bears

Blackhawks' balance, grit proves troublesome again for Blues

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Blackhawks' balance, grit proves troublesome again for Blues

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock knows playing at the United Center had been no easy task for his team in the past, and it sure wouldn't be on Tuesday night either.
"We usually get our a kicked in this building," Hitchcock said light-heartedly at the Blues' morning shootaround.
The Blackhawks and Blues both headed into tonight's matchup undefeated, but the way the Chicago began tonight's game proved they weren't ready to add a tally to their non-existant loss column. Their momentum right off the bat mirrored the same strength they showed in Los Angeles and Phoenix, and just like the Kings and Coyotes, the Blues were taken aback by it.
"The start killed us," Blues forward Andy McDonald said. "We took too many penalties, we mismanaged the puck early in the game, it seemed to take us a while to feel comfortable making plays in our own zone, plays in the neutral zone. Maybe a little bit of that had to do with how how the Blackhawks were coming, but we've got the skill to make better plays and manage the puck better than that."
Since the 2009-10 season, the Blackhawks have hosted the Blues a total of 10 times in the regular season, and only once -- a matchup back in Feb. 2010 -- did St. Louis come out of top. But that sure hasn't slowed the rivalry between the two teams. McDonald, who scored the Blues' first goal in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss, knows the Blackhawks' strong chemistry among their four lines is what gave the Blues trouble from the start.
"They've got a pretty balanced team," McDonald said."They have a lot of talent up front and a lot of skill spread out. They also have some grit and physicality there, so I mean they're a pretty well-rounded team.
"It's always a great rivalry between them and us and we look forward to playing them whether it's here or in our building. It's always a lot of fun. We've got a few more games, so we've got to get them back."

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.