Preps Talk

Cardinals replace La Russa with surprising choice

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Cardinals replace La Russa with surprising choice

From Comcast SportsNetST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals are replacing a manager who's third on the career victory list with a man who'll be writing his first lineup card on opening day. Mike Matheny, a former catcher with the Cardinals who had been a minor league instructor, will be introduced as Tony La Russa's successor at a news conference Monday. "I think he's going to be a great leader," Jim Edmonds, a teammate of Matheny's with the Cardinals, said Sunday night in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "If he goes out there and does what he's capable of doing and they put the players around him, he could be the manager for the next 20 years." The 41-year-old Matheny played for the Cardinals from 2000-04, won three of his four Gold Gloves and was part of three postseason efforts including a World Series. He became a team leader playing for La Russa, who retired just days after leading the team to his second World Series title in 16 seasons. Matheny's playing career blossomed after he signed a one-year free-agent deal to be the backup catcher in St. Louis. Though a career .239 hitter, Matheny did enough defensively to earn a starting job. Matheny was one of six men the Cardinals interviewed to replace La Russa. They also talked to Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, longtime Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo, former Boston manager Terry Francona, Triple-A manager Chris Maloney, and Chicago White Sox coach Joe McEwing. General manager John Mozeliak declined to comment on the hire aside from a one-word text to The Associated Press: "Tomorrow." La Russa did not respond to telephone and text messages. Francona was the only candidate who had major league managing experience. He left the Red Sox after the team collapsed in September. Oquendo coached for La Russa the last dozen years after playing the final decade of his career with the Cardinals and has had a handful of interviews for managing openings. The Cardinals received permission to interview Sandberg, manager of the Phillies' Triple-A team. Former Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan, who played for La Russa and is on local sports talk radio, thought the Cardinals would go with Francona because it gave them the best chance to retain momentum from their unlikely World Series run. The Cardinals won the NL wild card on the final day of the season and were underdogs against the Phillies, Brewers and Rangers, but have a solid returning cast with or without free agent Albert Pujols in the fold. "I think Matheny will be a great manager, given time," Duncan said. "He lacks managing experience, but it shows a lot about his character that the Cardinals hired him." Matheny was with the Giants when his career was ended by concussions in 2006. "He's a great leader, and an even better person," Edmonds said. "I think this is great. There's nobody that's going to work any harder than Mike." Matheny's coaching staff could include some familiar names. Pitching coach Dave Duncan, who was La Russa's right hand all 33 seasons, has one year remaining on his contract. The Cardinals have considered promoting Maloney in recent years, and Oquendo also could stay.

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

High School Lites had a busy show as it was the final week of the regular season for IHSA boys basketball Class 3A and 4A. The Class 1A and 2A playoffs also tipped in boys basketball as the show has some thrilling regional titles that were decided in the final minute. And finally, the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals were played on Friday as the state's top teams played in Bloomington.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Richards wrestler Mia Palumbo

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Simeon boys basketball

Highlights

Marshall shocks Leo in Class 2A regional final

Aurora Christian runs past Harvert Christian for 1A regional title

Buzzer-beater lifts Monticello over Gibson City for regional title

Jacobs goes unbeaten in Fox Valley with win over Dundee-Crown

West Aurora gets by rival East Aurora

Yorkville completes season sweep of DeKalb

Lemont escapes past T.F. North

Marshall needs OT to get past Teutopolis in girls 2A semifinals

Harlan takes down Eureka in 2A semifinals

Stockton runs by Okaw Valley in 1A

Schlarman races by Lebanon

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.