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Draft may not be only way Blackhawks roster changes

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Draft may not be only way Blackhawks roster changes

When the Blackhawks brass arrive in Pittsburgh for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft on Friday, part of their job is grabbing the best players for the future. But the other, more critical part, is what the Blackhawks can do to improve their team now. The draft is as much a trading ground as it is a prospect gathering one, and the Blackhawks will be one of many teams exploring the former options as well as the latter.

General manager Stan Bowman broke down every potential scenario during a conference call on Tuesday. They could make a big move if its the right fit. They could get a few pieces. Or, since they have a full roster already in place, they could just tweak.

Its hard to say at this point, if our team going to be the same as it stands, if well make additions or switch out players. Were always talking and considering different opportunities, Bowman said. If something makes us a better team well pursue it. I guess to answer, its possible well make moves, but we dont have to.

Well, that last sentence is true. And its not so true. Yes, as far as having enough bodies on the roster, enough players to fill each spot, the Blackhawks have that. But as it stands, they would enter 2012-13 regular season with the same team that fell in the first round of the 2011-12 postseason. And for a team thats determined to get back to Stanley Cup contention, status quo is a no-no.

The Blackhawks dont need a major overhaul - lets remember this team is on a four-season playoff roll. But they do need to make changes to bolster what has become a predictable team. They need a stronger supporting cast. They need size on defense. That may mean giving up a player or two -- a source indicated that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador, who have a combined 6 million cap hit this coming season, could be possibilities. That may mean giving up a prized prospect and draft picks. Its the price of winning - and attaining impact players.

And, no, by impact were not talking about acquiring every break-the-bank superstar player out there. While the cap could increase to as much as 70 million, the Blackhawks have plenty of star status and big-money contracts. Its more about finding those great characters, those great role players who have more than one year left in their NHL career. And its about finding them now.

From this weekend until late July, the Blackhawks need to be proactive and more aggressive than last season. For an organization that was going up, up, up en route to claiming the Cup, the first-round exits wont be tolerated much longer.

Bowman said on Tuesday that he loves this time of year, from drafting those prospects to finding the right pieces for the team now. The Blackhawks need to be proactive. If they are, theyre the ones who will be having fun again during the season.

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

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USA TODAY

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

Jimmy Butler won't be facing the Bulls a second time this season.

Butler suffered a non-contact knee injury on Friday night in Houston. The initial X-ray only revealed he didn't have any broken bones, but the MRI had to wait until Saturday.

The Timberwolves announced that the MRI revealed a meniscus injury in Butler's right knee. There is not yet word on how long the All-Star guard will be out of action, but if it wasn't already assumed that he wouldn't play against the Bulls, it's now certain.

Avoiding the ACL tear means avoiding the worse case scenario, but this is likely still going to cause Butler to miss a significant amount of time with about a quarter of the regular season remaining. An update from Shams Charania of The Vertical said Butler could return for the postseason.

The Bulls take on the Timberwolves on Saturday night. Butler dropped 38 points at the United Center in his return to Chicago exactly two weeks ago, but the Bulls won 114-113.

Butler posted on Instagram a reaction to the injury.

Saturday's game will be the returns of Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn to Minnesota after they went the other direction in the Butler trade on draft night last June.