Cubs

Carter's strange journey puts him on Game 2 throne

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Carter's strange journey puts him on Game 2 throne

NEWARK, N.J. Every life has its strange, tumultuous twists. Jeff Carters had plenty of his own in just one year, one in which he went from Philadelphia to Columbus to Los Angeles.

So when the good moments come, theyre savored. And after scoring one of the biggest goals of his career on Saturday night, Carter gets the chance to do that now.

Carter scored his first career overtime playoff goal as the Los Angeles Kings beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Kings take a 2-0 lead in the series and have now won 10 straight road playoff games. Theyve won 12 in a row dating back to last postseason.

For Carter, it was especially sweet. A year of tumult and team moves landed him in Los Angeles, where he could get a fresh start and the Kings could get an offensive boost. Its worked out for both, and Carter came through with a big one on Saturday night.

You just want to put it on net as much as you can. (Dustin Penner) did a great job to get in front of Marty (Brodeur). I dont know if he saw the shot, Carter said. Its a pretty special moment. Obviously any time you play in the finals its exciting. But scoring an overtime goal to get up 2-0 is pretty special.

Drew Doughty put the Kings up in the first period, darting through the Devils on a move that was highlight-reel worthy. But Ryan Carter redirected a Marek Zidlicky shot to tie in the third period, setting up overtime. The Kings outshot the Devils 11-3 in the extra frame. On the game-winner, Carter came from behind the net and circled wide as the Devils converged down in front. It looked like Carter was going to pass it off at first but instead took the shot, which beat Brodeur low, stick side.

Our defensemen were open, too. But you could tell he wanted to shoot that, and hes got a great shot. Beauty shot, low blocker and found a hole, Jarret Stoll said. Hes been in the media a lot, lot of story lines, but hes been a great addition to our team. Hes solidified our lineup and made us a lot better. Thats a big goal, a huge goal for him.

Carter now has 10 points this postseason.

That was a huge effort on that goal, defenseman Matt Greene said. Its good to get a guy like him going. He scores in bunches. Hopefully he gets hot and we ride him a little bit.

Carter has found a good niche with the Kings. He scored, arguably, the biggest goal of his career on Saturday night. And hes gotten the Kings that much closer to their ultimate goal.

I think this is by far the biggest for sure, Carter said of his goal. Its a huge one, a big one for the team. We get this to where we wanted it to be.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: