Blackhawks

Hamilton suffers injury, but Brewer a capable replacement

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Hamilton suffers injury, but Brewer a capable replacement

After returning to the lineup after the All-Star break, all seemed well for Rip Hamilton. The shooting guard was slowly getting back into the groove, the Bulls were winning and then, Monday evening, the 13-year veteran suffered a right-shoulder injury after running into a Pacers player in the first quarter of the eventual blowout victory.

Hamilton wasnt available for comment after the game, but according to a source familiar with the situation, he left the arena with his right arm in a sling. The same source told CSNChicago.com that Hamilton apparently injured the top of his shoulder and at least early onhell be examined Tuesdaytheres little optimism about a quick return.

He collided and its his shoulder, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said afterwards. He tried to shake it off and at first I thought it might be a stinger, but that wasnt the case.

Although the Bulls are used to playing without Hamilton for the majority of this season, the hope was that he could finally be healthy to ingrain himself into the team permanently and build upon what appears to be promising chemistry with the rest of the roster. His offseason addition filled a need, sharpshooting and his extensive playoff experience is another plus.

I hope that Rips not too hurt. We know we need him to get to where we want to get to, but Ronnie Brewer was an animal out there tonight, Joakim Noah said before humorously adding, Hopefully hell get some massages. Well call the African spirits and pray that hes all right, and hopefully hell be back on the court soon.

Ronnie Brewer, the player charged with replacing Hamilton in the starting lineup, had a solid outing Monday, finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds. While Brewer is a starting-caliber player, the luxury of having him come off the bench and add to the teams depth is clear, though the swingman admits that he relishes the increased playing time.

If you enjoy playing basketball, you enjoy being on the court, having success, having your team have success. Last game I didnt play a lot, but I tried to provide as much energy and impact the game as much as I possibly could against Philly. But tonight, a guy goes down and your role changes. Youve got to step up and do your part. I was just glad I came in and was able to play decent, and help our team out, said Brewer.

Were not too worried about it. Weve got guys who can step up and fill the void a little bit. We know what he brings to the table, we know his history, we know hes one of the best guys to move without the basketball, what he does shooting-wise. The most important thing is we have him down the stretch, healthy. We felt pretty positive about him coming back and slowly, but surely working his way, getting minutes. His shot was coming back, his conditioning was coming back. Its just unfortunate he got hurt tonight, but hopefully its not as serious as it looked and we can get him back on the court because hes definitely missed.

Added Thibodeau: Ronnies been terrific all year. Whether you start him, bring him off the bench, always ready, going to make scramble plays, hustle plays. Hes a great pro.

Some guys have a hard time coming off the bench because when youre coming in off the bench, your motor has to be running. Its a much more difficult job at times because youve got to get going quickly and he has the ability to do that. It doesnt take a long time, it doesnt take five minutes to get into the flow of the game. He can start instantaneously and if you start him, hes fine. If you bring him off the bench, hes fine. He just plays.

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

It’s an annual rite of passage if you cover or are a fan of the Blackhawks: you question the power play, because there always seems to be an issue with the power play. You wonder why every season, given the talent on this team. And again this fall the power play has sputtered.

But a funny thing happened at the end of the weekend. The Blackhawks’ power play started to look good, started to generate chances and started to score. In 10 games prior to the Blackhawks’ Nov. 12 game against New Jersey they had just three power-play goals in 40 opportunities. In their last three games (vs. the Devils, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins), they’ve tallied five goals on 13 opportunities.

So what’s been working?

“I’ll probably give you the same answer as when it wasn’t working: pucks to the net, guys in front,” Patrick Sharp said. “We have the shot mentality more so than just moving it around and getting it set up. You look at the goals we’ve scored, it’s nothing overly complicated. It’s just getting the puck to the net. Just stay with it.”

Sounds simple enough, but the stay-with-it part has probably been the toughest segment of the equation. When the Blackhawks slumped they really slumped, and their lack of confidence on the power play was as evident as their lack of scoring on it. Yes, stressing over it can have its affect; and when the Blackhawks got those two power-play goals against the Devils it seemed to be a release.

“You get one, that weight gets lifted off your chest a little bit, you can play a little loser and maybe not grip your stick as tight as when things weren’t going well,” Cody Franson said. “When you’re confident out there you’re moving the puck cleanly, things happen a little quicker for you and give you those better looks at good chances. When you’re not that confident sometimes you’re not executing as well and things were moving slower and you’re not generating too much. Confidence definitely plays a big part in it.”

So back to what’s working. The Blackhawks started becoming more active on the power play, cutting down on the passes and increasing the shots. They’ve been there for rebounds. They started feeding off the success, be it with the power play as a unit or with individual performances. Artem Anisimov has returned to being a force at the net again; of his five goals in his last three games, two are power-play goals.

“A couple of broken plays and sometimes you get some breaks. You win a faceoff and make a quick little play after a couple of great opportunities on the prior whistle there that didn’t go in. I just think shots at the net and traffic and off that, sometimes they go in,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Our entries have always been alright this year, so we’re getting zone time and let’s get some simpler looks and sometimes they go in. I think gaining confidence there, it seems like we’re having the puck more and longer and sustaining some offense off it.”

The Blackhawks have struggled more than they’ve succeeded on the power play the last few seasons. But as their overall scoring has increased again, so has their power-play production. Good timing.

“People tend to say the power play can keep you in games and the penalty kill can win you games. Our penalty kill’s been great and has given us chances in a lot of games. [Corey Crawford’s] been playing pretty well,” Franson said. “And when our power play can give us success we find ourselves in better situations to try and win games.”

High School Lites Podcast: Rules, regulations ... and repeat champions?

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High School Lites Podcast: Rules, regulations ... and repeat champions?

Can Prairie Ridge repeat as state champions? Will Rochester and IC Catholic Prep do the same? It’s championship weekend at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb for IHSA football.

On the latest High School Lites Podcast, Joe Collins and “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran wrap up the 2017 prep season and discuss the games on NIU’s campus this weekend.

Could some contests go down to the last play? A lot of playoffs games have done just that in recent memory. And referees are the ones who keep a continuous rundown of checks of balances as plays and game flow escalate. The guys are joined by Steve Garbaciak, the President of the Joliet Football Officials and member of the IHSA’s official advisory committee and a 25-year veteran of the IHSA. Steve chronicles how the game has changed in the last quarter century, and he details how to maintain judicial balance in games of critical importance.

It's all on the latest High School Lites Podcast. Listen to the episode below: