White Sox

Hawks look to keep team-oriented mentality

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Hawks look to keep team-oriented mentality

It was game seven of that nine-game winless streak that the Blackhawks decided to change some things; namely, their system. It wasnt a drastic change; actually, it was just simplifying things.

It was just the way we looked at games and what we needed to do better. We kept it simple, forward Bryan Bickell said. Stick to the team game and dont get into individual style of play and such.

The Blackhawks kept that mentality through the rest of the skid, which lasted just two more games. They also followed that plan when captain Jonathan Toews missed 22 games with a concussion. And while the captain could be back on Thursday, the Blackhawks still need to play exactly how they did without him.

Toews is likely playing when the Blackhawks open their first-round playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday. His return is obviously a welcome one. But while lines and responsibilities will change, the Blackhawks play, the style that earned them a 13-5-4 record in Toews absence, cannot.

We dont have the luxury to say, Oh, Johnnys back. We can relax and Johnny can take over. Were not that kind of team, anyway, coach Joel Quenneville said. I just think everybody has to continue on with what got us here at the end of the year. We have to turn it up, too.

Indeed, this is the time of year for which each team plays. The pressure is on, and everyone has to be on board. For the Blackhawks, everyone has the past month and a half. When Toews first went down, the sky-is-falling mentality was running rampant on blogs and on Twitter. But the Blackhawks regrouped, got strong performances and faced the adversity fine. They were at their best during March, when they went 10-2-2 en route to solidifying their hold on the No. 6 seed.

When losing a guy like that other players have to step up and take on some responsibility, said Patrick Kane, who did that as well as anyone. But to be honest with you, we played a better team game. We just worried about the little things defensively. Even offensively, we were playing simpler, too. Sometimes when you play simple you get some confidence and it opens things up to be creative. That should be the mindset for all of us: work hard, play simple right away and let the game come to us instead of chasing it.

When he does play, Toews will be back on that top line with Kane and Hossa. He was also on the top power-play unit for the second straight day. Hes said hell just do whatever is necessary to fit back into things, and the Blackhawks hope to keep going the way they have.

I think we just need to stick to that, to the way weve been playing, Bickell said. When (Toews) comes in, hell adapt to the system that Q and the coaches want. Thats the most important part going into the playoffs.

The Blackhawks found success without Toews by simplifying things and spreading around the responsibilities. The duties and lines will change. The Blackhawks game cannot.

Things are going to get ratcheted up. Johnny has to be excited as well. But dont feel comfortable knowing Johnnys going to return, Quenneville said. There are going to be that many more demands on everyone. Were expecting more come playoff time.

White Sox Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with Frank Thomas

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AP

White Sox Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with Frank Thomas

White Sox Hall of Famer Frank Thomas came on the podcast to talk with Chuck Garfien about his past, baseball's present and the future of the White Sox. He talks about his first major league hit (a stand-up triple!), how fame affected him when he was a player, his appearance on David Letterman in the 1990s and more. 

Plus, what was wrong with the baseball this past season? Thomas has some ideas and tells Garfien how many home runs he would have hit with that baseball in his prime. He talks about working with Alex Rodriguez at FOX and what it was like whenever girlfriend Jennifer Lopez came to visit in the studio.

Thomas praises the White Sox rebuild and reveals an idea he presented to GM Rick Hahn about where all the top prospects should play this upcoming season. He describes what it was like going to Roy Halladay's funeral, if he sees the White Sox signing Manny Machado in 2019 and much more.

Listen to the full White Sox Talk Podcast right here:

Lauri Markkanen has career-high 26 points in loss to Suns

Lauri Markkanen has career-high 26 points in loss to Suns

Lauri Markkanen continues to impress.

The 20-year-old rookie had a career-high 26 points in the Bulls' 113-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night. He also picked up 13 rebounds.

After the game, in which the Bulls fell to 3-11 on the season, coach Fred Hoiberg had high praise for the Finnish.

"I thought Lauri was phenomenal," Hoiberg said. "But when he is open, we gotta get him the ball. When he's got it rolling like he did tonight, guys were switching and we had him a couple of times with the point guard buried in his back and we didn't get him the ball."

Watch what Hoiberg had to say about the Bulls' tight loss in the video above.