Friedrich joins Fire for training


Friedrich joins Fire for training

German defender Arne Friedrich has joined the Fire this week in advance of the club's home opener Saturday against Philadelphia (7 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). Check out the gallery below for photos of Friedrich training with his new team and a few photos of the German international squaring up against some world-class players in 2010's World Cup.

Friedrich comes to the Fire after being released from his contract with German-side VFL Wolfsburg last September. The 32-year-old only appeared in 15 games with Wolfsburg, which he joined in 2010, due to a pair of slipped discs. 2012 will be Friedrich's first season playing outside Germany's top-level Bundesliga.

From 2002-2010, he was a back-line stalwart for Hertha Berlin, appearing in 231 games and scoring 14 goals. Friedrich has also been capped 82 times by the German National Team, the 18th-most in the history of club. He scored his only international goal in a 2010 World Cup match against Argentina.

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line


The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

Jonathan Toews' offense usually comes in spurts. We're seeing it again right now.

But it's no coincidence his numbers have spiked since Patrick Kane joined him on the top line.

After recording another two points in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks captain has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight games; he had 11 points in his previous 23 games total.

Toews also reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th straight season, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin as the only three active players to accomplish that feat to open their NHL careers.

Kane has seen his offensive production pick up, too. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games after going five straight without one, which was his longest point drought of the season.

When the two of them are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.9 percent of the shot attempts. It hasn't quite translated on the scoresheet (14 goals for and 17 goals against) maybe the way it should, but they are certainly spending far more time in the offensive zone than the defensive end and are generating a high volume of shots.

So yes, reuniting the dynamic duo has worked stats-wise.

But it comes at a cost:

— Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz haven't scored in six straight contests.

— Alex DeBrincat's season-long goal drought is up to 13 games.

— Artem Anisimov's last even-strength goal came nine games ago.

When you put Kane and Toews together, you risk losing some balance across the lineup and that's why Joel Quenneville has always been reluctant to go to that nuclear option. He prefers when opposing teams are forced to play 'Pick Your Poison.'

Ideally, you'd like to spread out the scoring, but one thing is for certain: The Blackhawks are better when Kane and Toews are each producing offensively, whether they're apart or together. 

When the wins start to dry up though — and they have — that's normally when it's time to try something different.

Perhaps more importantly, the last thing you want are those scoring droughts mentioned above to stretch even further and get inside the younger skaters' heads, then carrying it with them into the offseason.

Morgan Park claims back-to-back Class 3A state titles with win over Southeast

Morgan Park claims back-to-back Class 3A state titles with win over Southeast

PEORIA -- Morgan Park claimed its second consecutive IHSA Class 3A boys basketball state title with a 71-56 win over Springfield Southeast on Saturday afternoon.

The Mustangs (25-9) jumped out to a 35-27 halftime lead and maintained control for good when senior guard and Player of the Year candidate Ayo Dosunmu took over the game at the end of the third quarter. With the Mustangs clinging to a one-possession lead in a chippy game, the Illinois commit calmly scored eight straight points on three possessions to give Morgan Park a comfortable 54-45 advantage heading into the final quarter. Playing in front of his future college head coach, Brad Underwood, Dosunmu finished out a memorable high-school career with a Class 3A state-title record 28 points.

Senior Cam Burrell added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Mustangs while sophomore guards Adam Miller and Marcus Watson also chipped in 11 points each.

Southeast (29-4) was playing for its first boys basketball state title in school history, but they ultimately fell short after the third-quarter rally. Junior Anthony Fairlee led the charge with 16 points and 10 rebounds for Southeast before fouling out while Terrion Murdix (12 points) and Kobe Medley (10 points) also finished in double-figures. With only one senior starter this season, the future still looks bright for Southeast for next season. The Spartans should return another strong team as they'll once again be a factor in the state title race.

Saturday's win marks the fifth boys basketball state championship for Morgan Park and the fourth state title in six years for the program under head coach Nick Irvin. Clearly the most dominant Class 3A team in Illinois, the Mustangs have the look of a long-lasting dynasty. Morgan Park has advanced to Peoria in five of the last six seasons and the roster still features plenty of young talent. Miller could be a Player of the Year candidate in the area next season. Watson should also step up when they become upperclassmen.   

Morgan Park also became the second Chicago Public League program to claim back-to-back IHSA state titles in 2018 after Orr captured the Class 2A title last weekend in Peoria.