Preps Talk

Hossa, Montador on the mend

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Hossa, Montador on the mend

Right wing Marian Hossa and defenseman Steve Montador are improving from their respective injuriesand starting their summer workouts. And if training camp does begin in September, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman is very optimistic that the two will be ready to play by then.Hossa and Montador both suffered concussions that cost them the end of their seasons in 2011-12. But Bowman, speaking on a conference call on Tuesday, said the two are making progress.Both are on the mend and starting their summer training programs, getting ready for the season, Bowman said. Its still June, and camp isnt until September, so its not anything you can guarantee on how they progress. But at this point, were very optimistic the way both are feeling. I suppose that can change, but most likely its full steam ahead as they ramp up over the summer.Hossa was taken off on a stretcher after Phoenix forward Raffi Torres hit him in the head in Game 3 of their first roundplayoff series in April. Hossa said in early May it was the first time he had suffered a head injury of this magnitude and he was struggling to get better. Torres appealed the 25-game suspension he was given for that hit; a ruling on that appeal has yet to be announced.Montador suffered his concussion against Colorado in early February. He returned against the New Jersey Devils on March 27 but played just over four minutes before getting reinjured.

Their improvement is good news for the Blackhawks and Bowman, who added that left wingDaniel Carcillo is also close to 100 percent after undergoing season-ending knee surgery in January. Right wing Ben Smith also ended the season with surgery (hip and hernia) on March 15, and Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement soon after the surgerythat Smith was expected to make a full recovery in about 15 weeks. Bowman said Carcillo andSmith are also showing improvement.(Carcillo has) been skating about five or six months now and he would be ready to roll even if camp started in a week or two, Bowman said. Smiths on track as well. Hes probably another few weeks (away) to being ready to start a training camp. But by September he should certainly be 100 percent.Smith signed a two-year deal on Monday, as did forward Brandon Bollig. Goaltender Carter Hutton was signed to a one-year deal and Alexander Salaks was officially released. Bowman said Salak, who had been placed on unconditional waivers over the weekend, indicated he wanted a change of scenery.I think Alex looked at the situation and saw he was likely going to be in similar position. And he didnt want that. He made it clear he didnt want to play in the AHL. At that point he ready to move on, Bowman said.He was hopeful of making NHL a year ago and it was close between he and (Ray) Emery. He just had an up and down year (in Rockford), got injured, and Carter Hutton came up and really surprised all of us with how well he played. He gave the Rockford team a chance to make strong push in the second half.

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

High School Lites had a busy show as it was the final week of the regular season for IHSA boys basketball Class 3A and 4A. The Class 1A and 2A playoffs also tipped in boys basketball as the show has some thrilling regional titles that were decided in the final minute. And finally, the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals were played on Friday as the state's top teams played in Bloomington.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Richards wrestler Mia Palumbo

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Simeon boys basketball

Highlights

Marshall shocks Leo in Class 2A regional final

Aurora Christian runs past Harvert Christian for 1A regional title

Buzzer-beater lifts Monticello over Gibson City for regional title

Jacobs goes unbeaten in Fox Valley with win over Dundee-Crown

West Aurora gets by rival East Aurora

Yorkville completes season sweep of DeKalb

Lemont escapes past T.F. North

Marshall needs OT to get past Teutopolis in girls 2A semifinals

Harlan takes down Eureka in 2A semifinals

Stockton runs by Okaw Valley in 1A

Schlarman races by Lebanon

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.