Blackhawks

Johnson absent for Fire opener

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Johnson absent for Fire opener

The Montreal Impact suffered a disappointing result in their MLSdebut, but they hope to take advantage of what's expected to be afull house in their home opener.The Impact go for their first win Saturday when they take on theChicago Fire, who will be without starting goaltender Sean Johnsonin their season opener.After playing in various other leagues for nearly two decades,Montreal joined the MLS, becoming the league's 19th team. TheImpact weren't able to pick up a win in their debut, losing 2-0 toVancouver last Saturday."The disappointing part is that it happened so quickly into thegame,'' said coach Jesse Marsch, whose team gave up the first goalin the fourth minute. "We don't even give ourselves a chance forthe game to settle in, and we're already down 1-0."While nerves could be blamed for the poor start, Montreal didhave its chances, putting seven shots on goal.The Impact will try for better results in their home opener atOlympic Stadium. Montreal announced that more than 50,000 ticketshave been sold."Now that we have a game under our belt, we'll be more focusedon exactly what the game is going to require," Marsch, a member ofthe Fire from 1998-2005, told the league's official website. "Wehave enough guys who have played in front of big crowds and in biggames. It's going to be a good opportunity to show the city who weare."Chicago will be looking to quiet that full stadium in itsopener."They'll be trying as much as possible to play the crowd and tointimidate us and the officials," said forward Dominic Oduro, wholed the Fire with 12 goals last season. "I believe we have a goodteam in terms of experience in chemistry to go in and get pointsout of it."The Fire missed the playoffs for a second straight year in 2011despite finishing strong after a poor start, going 7-1-2 in theirfinal 10 games.A big reason for that success was the play of Johnson. He gaveup 12 goals during that 10-game stretch, though he'll miss thefirst three contests this season while playing for the UnitedStates in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying action.Chicago has not said whether it will start veteran Jay Nolly or23-year-old Paolo Tornaghi in his place."Jay is an experienced guy, and Paolo, his experience isdifferent," coach Frank Klopas told the Fire's official website."He's not the kid out of the draft or college, he's been in a goodenvironment. We're comfortable with either choice."Chicago returns most of last season's roster, including Oduroand Patrick Nyarko, who had a team-best nine assists.The Fire added some depth behind them in Colombian midfielderRafael Robayo and German defender Arne Friedrich, who appeared in82 games for his national team.With Montreal playing in front of what should be an emotionalcrowd, Chicago's goal is to get off to a quick start."It would be huge to go in and get an early goal to take themout of it and calm us down," Oduro said.Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

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USA TODAY

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

It’s official: The Blackhawks are headed back outdoors.

The NHL announced that the 2019 Winter Classic will be held at Notre Dame Stadium, featuring the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1.

"The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Notre Dame Stadium, with its capacity approaching 80,000, will provide an ideal setting for this ground-breaking event and will host the largest live audience ever to witness a game by either of these teams."

"The Chicago Blackhawks are honored to be participating in this marquee event at an iconic venue like Notre Dame Stadium," Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "The University of Notre Dame has strong alumni roots in both Chicago and Boston, and, with an established rivalry between the Blackhawks and Bruins, fans will be treated to an exciting game in a unique atmosphere. We appreciate the invitation to the game and look forward to what will be a great day for both franchises and the National Hockey League."

It's the sixth time the Blackhawks will be playing outdoors, and their league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks are 1-4-0 in outdoor games, and are winless in three Winter Classic games.

Chicago's only outdoor win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Stadium Series Classic, a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.