Blackhawks

Cubs ship Byrd to Boston for Bowden

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Cubs ship Byrd to Boston for Bowden

The Cubs had been shopping Marlon Byrd long before his 3-for-43 start to the season. Talks accelerated once Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury went down with a shoulder injury.

The Cubs finalized the deal on Saturday, trading Byrd and cash to Boston for right-hander Michael Bowden and a pitcher to be named later. The Cubs will pay the majority of the roughly 5.9 million remaining on the final year of Byrds contract.

The slow start didnt play any part at all, general manager Jed Hoyer said on a conference call. We had talked about some deals at the end of spring training and our feeling was weve been trying to acquire relief pitching, really, since the end of the winter.

We felt like an area where we have some surplus and some young players we want to play is the outfield.

The Cubs have options in center Joe Mather, Reed Johnson, Tony Campana until top prospect Brett Jackson shows enough at Triple-A Iowa to earn a promotion.

Bretts a big part of our future, Hoyer said, but I wouldnt read into anything with this deal as far as when we might bring him up.

The three former Red Sox executives now running the Cubs Hoyer, Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod know all about Bowden, the 47th overall pick in the 2005 draft out of Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora.

Bowden will report to Wrigley Field, likely on Monday, and take a spot in the Cubs bullpen, where there is definitely opportunity. The 25-year-old was designated for assignment on April 15 and has a 5.61 ERA in 39 career major-league games.

There is potential upside. Bowden spent most of last season as the closer at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 3-3 with 16 saves and a 2.73 ERA. He finished with 61 strikeouts against only 18 walks in 52.2 innings.

Hoyer said the Cubs have a list of pitchers from the Red Sox organization, and will select the player to be named later by the middle of May.

Byrd returns to Fenway Park, where last May he collapsed after a fastball from Alfredo Aceves fractured his face. An All-Star in 2010, he missed six weeks last season and wound up hitting .276 with 35 RBI in 119 games.

Byrd played with maximum effort, but could also be a strong, difficult personality. The 34-year-old outfielder who was hitting .070 will have something to prove in his walk year.

Youre on a big stage in Chicago, and he knows hes going to be on a big stage in Boston, Hoyer said. Hes been in a little bit of a funk here and sort of having the batting average reset (in) the American League (could) be a real good thing for him.

Id be surprised if he didnt go over there and help them. Right now, theyre in a position where theyre a little bit thin in the outfield and theyre going to be welcoming him with open arms.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 8:45 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Corey Crawford vs. ... Oscar Dansk? 

The Golden Knights have seen both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban go down with injuries, so they're scraping for goaltenders at this point.

On one end of the ice, you have one of the best netminders in the league and a two-time Stanley Cup champion in Crawford. On the other, you have a 23-year-old rookie in Dansk making his first official NHL start who will be backed up by a 24-year-old rookie in Maxime Lagace, who has never appeared in an NHL game.

In his first game action, Dansk stopped 10 of 11 shots in relief during Saturday's 3-2 overtime win over St. Louis.

2. Fast start.

The Blackhawks are tied for second in both goals scored (13) and fewest goals allowed (four) in the first period, which has a large reason for their early season success.

The Golden Knights aren't the kind of team that gets out to a blazing start. They've allowed only five goals in the opening frame, but they've scored only five as well, which ranks among the bottom 10 teams in the league. 

3. Beware of James Neal.

The Golden Knights became the first team in NHL history to win six of their first seven games of their inaugural season. And they probably don't have half of those wins if it weren't for Neal, who scored the game-winning goal in each of their first three games.

He leads the club with six goals and eight points, and serves as the motor for a team that doesn't have much offensive talent. He's the go-to guy, and somebody you have to keep an eye on when he's on the ice.

 

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Tuesday night tilt against the Cavaliers on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. LeBron James will be on your television

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is must-see TV. Now in his 15th NBA season, James has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite playing just one preseason game (against the Bulls), James has shown anything but rust in three games, averaging 25.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 37 minutes. He's a threat every night to do something you've never seen on a basketball court, His Airness included. Justin Holiday and Paul Zipser will have their hands full against the game's best player.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Week 2

Small sample size alert! But through the season's first week Markkanen and Ben Simmons are the only rookies averaging a double-double (Dallas' Dennis Smith has played just one game, averaging 16 points and 10 assists). While the Bulls have struggled through two games, Markkanen's net rating is third best on the team and he leads the Bulls bigs in rebounds per game and rebound percentage. Markkanen has shown some versatility offensively, and his 7 free-throw attempts have been a nice surprise as well.

3. Don't forget: The Bulls swept the Cavaliers last year

OK, so expecting a victory Tuesday night in Cleveland isn't smart. The Bulls will be underdogs just like they were in each of the four games last season, all of which were Bulls winners. It was the first time in 52 division series that LeBron James had been swept, which is pretty remarkable considering the Bulls were the No. 8 seed and the Cavs coasted to a third straight NBA Finals. We're not over here predicting a win. But just remember: the Bulls have fared well against James in the regular season.