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CSN looks back at the game that ended a 14-year playoff appearance drought on the next installment of "Bears Classics"

CSN looks back at the game that ended a 14-year playoff appearance drought on the next installment of "Bears Classics"

‘Bears Classics’ presented by Knauz Automotive Group to debut Christmas Night (Friday, December 25) at 8:00 PM CT -- Exclusively on Comcast SportsNet 

Narrated by Chicago Bears/Pro Football Hall of Fame legend DICK BUTKUS

Chicago, IL (December 17, 2015) – Comcast SportsNet and the Chicago Bears will debut a brand new installment of its partnered Bears Classics presented by Knauz Automotive Group Emmy-winning documentary series when the network will once again go back in time to highlight a critical game between two legendary NFL franchises, one which would ultimately send the “Monsters” back to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.   

Debuting Christmas Night (Friday, December 25) at 8:00 PM CT exclusively on Comcast SportsNet, Bears Classics will turn back the clock to December 18, 1977.  In final game of the regular season, the Bears traveled east to face their long-standing rival – the New York Giants – in a battle that would determine if the Bears playoff drought (since 1963 no less) would finally come to an end.  This game in the Meadowlands featured horrendous weather conditions, including rain and near freezing temperatures.  However, a determined Bears squad led by eventual 1977 NFL MVP Walter Payton, along with a group of young, hungry players, not only won this game in OT (their six-straight win to close out the season), but also set the table for a winning mindset in the years to come. 

This hour-long installment of Bears Classics, subtitled One Giant Leap, takes an in-depth look at this turning point moment in Bears history featuring candid interviews with players and coaches from both teams, along with those who covered this historic game 38 years ago. 

This edition of CSN’s Emmy-winning Bears Classics documentary series will once again be narrated by Chicago Bears legend/Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus.  Butkus played for the Bears from 1965-1973 and is credited for redefining the middle linebacker position.  He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.  Comcast SportsNet’s Sarah Lauch is the Executive Producer of Bears Classics, Willie Parker is the Producer, and Kevin Cross is the network’s Senior Director of News & Original Content.

In addition to the documentary narration by Butkus, among the numerous players/media/execs interviewed in this edition of Bears Classics include exclusive interviews with the following individuals:

GARY FENCIK

Bears Safety (1976-87)

ROLAND HARPER

Bears Running Back (1975-82)

ROBIN EARL

Bears Running Back/Tight End (1977-83)

DAN JIGGETTS

Bears Offensive Tackle (1976-82); current CSN Bears analyst

EMERY MOOREHEAD

Giants Tight End/Wide Receiver (1977-79); Bears Tight End (1982-88)

BOB THOMAS

Bears Kicker (1975-82; 1983-84); current Illinois State Supreme Court Justice

HARRY CARSON

Giants Linebacker (1976-88)

JOE PISARCIK

Giants Quarterback (1977-79)

Please note the following quotes from Comcast SportsNet’s premiere airing of Bears Classics: One Giant Leap, debuting Christmas Night (Friday, December 25) at 8:00 PM CT:

GARY FENCIK (on weather conditions): "I’ve never been so cold, ‘because you were wet and cold.  And they’d just go ‘why don’t you just give up, we’ll get off the field too.”

ROLAND HARPER (on the 1977 Bears): "We were new, we were young, we were hungry…we wanted to try to do whatever we had to do (to win).”

HARRY CARSON (on the rarity of 1970’s overtime games): "Going into overtime…that was something that was the first time that I probably had experienced that situation being in the National Football League.”

DAN JIGGETTS (on Bears head coach/former NFL linebacker Jack Pardee): "That was a whole new world for him and we wanted to play for him, we really did because we respected the fact that this guy was a serious player.”

BOB THOMAS (on encouraging words from Bears teammate Bob Parsons): "I’m probably 5’10, 180 pounds and he’s like 6’2 or 6’3, like 240 right?  And he picks me up by my shoulder pads and he said ‘Hey Bob, if you don’t make this kick, I’m going to break your neck.”

Comcast SportsNet will also re-air this episode of Bears Classics on Tue, Jan. 5 at 9pm and on Mon, Jan. 18 at 8pm.  Details regarding the next installment of Bears Classics will be announced in the coming weeks.

In addition, fans can also get interactive prior and during every airing of Bears Classics with their thoughts, memories and comments by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #BearsClassics.  Plus, CSNChicago.com will provide additional, online exclusive interviews and commentary write-ups from a variety of Comcast SportsNet on-air talent members and from CSNChicago.com’s Bears “Insider” John ‘Moon’ Mullin.  

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.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

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USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."