Cubs

Kane shifting to the left

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Kane shifting to the left

Patrick Kane was going up and down the ice at his familiar quick pace albeit on a less-than-familiar side of the line. The right wingercenterright wingcenter was on the move again, this time to the left wing.

Although Kane apparently had a different idea on who should play there.

He mentioned, Can you ask Johnny (Toews) to play left wing today? coach Joel Quenneville said with a laugh. That was Kaners line.

Its musical-chair time again for Kane who, when Toews does return, will be playing left wing. This is a very different move for Kane, who has only played that spot sparingly in his career. But as with his move to center, with which he was more familiar, Kane took it in stride.

Its just a position, he said. Its a little different, and maybe a couple of times here and there Ive played it. I just want to play with the puck, work hard. Especially with the skill we have, it seems like it could be a fun line.

Indeed, with Kane, Toews and Marian Hossa together at the top, it could be a very potent line. Kane and Hossa formed great chemistry when Kane centered the top line, and Quenneville wanted to keep the two of them together when Toews returned. That, and hes liking the rest of his lines as they are.

Its something we havent tried but we will try, he said. All the other lines are in order and have done a good job down the stretch, so we dont want to tinker too much with the lines. That (top) line should, or could, work.

Theyll have a few days to practice it, as the Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes dont begin their first-round series until Thursday. Kane said hell use the time wisely.

Its good that we have a few practices to get adjusted; its fine, Ill get used to it, he said. You look at the other lines: (Dave) Bollands line been paying good, (Marcus) Krugers line been our best the past couple of weeks. With that (top) line its been in and out with left wingers, so when Johnny comes back Ill fill the slot there.

Patrick Sharp, whos played all three forward spots himself, said Kane will adjust just fine just like he did at center.

Its just getting used to catching passes on forehand instead of the backhand and entering the zone a little different, Sharp said. That was my spot the last few years, playing all the different places. And now hes going through it. Hats off to him. Hes done a great job at it.

The low-key move that may pay dividends for Cubs in 2018 and beyond

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USA TODAY

The low-key move that may pay dividends for Cubs in 2018 and beyond

The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry is alive and well and this offseason has been further proof of that.

The St. Louis Cardinals haven't made a rivalry-altering move like inking Jake Arrieta to a megadeal, but they have proven that they are absolutely coming after the Cubs and the top of the division.

However, a move the St. Louis brass made Friday afternoon may actually be one that makes Cubs fans cheer.

The Cardinals traded outfielder Randal Grichuk to the Toronto Blue Jays Friday in exhange for a pair of right-handed pitchers: Dominic Leone and Conner Greene. Leone is the main draw here as a 26-year-old reliever who posted a 2.56 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 in 70.1 innings last year in Toronto.

But this is the second young position player the Cardinals have traded to Toronto this offseason and Grichuk is a notorious Cub Killer.

Grichuk struggled overall in 2017, posting a second straight year of empty power and not much else. But he once again hammered the Cubs to the tune of a .356 batting average and 1.240 OPS. 

He hit six homers and drove in 12 runs in just 14 games (11 starts) against Joe Maddon's squad. That's 27 percent of his 2017 homers and 20 percent of his season RBI numbers coming against just one team.

And it wasn't just one year that was an aberration. In his career, Grichuk has a .296/.335/.638 slash line against the Cubs, good for a .974 OPS. He's hit 11 homers and driven in 33 runs in 37 games, the highest ouput in either category against any opponent.

Even if Leone builds off his solid 2017 and pitches some big innings against the Cubs over the next couple seasons, it will be a sigh of relief for the Chicago pitching staff knowing they won't have to face the threat of Grichuk 18+ times a year.

Plus, getting a reliever and a low-level starting pitching prospect back for a guy (Grichuk) who was borderline untouchable a couple winters ago isn't exactly great value. The same can be said for the Cardinals' trade of Aledmys Diaz to Toronto on Dec. 1 for essentially nothing.

A year ago, St. Louis was heading into the season feeling confident about Diaz, who finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year race in 2016 after hitting .300 with an .879 OPS as a 25-year-old rookie. He wound up finishing 2017 in the minors after struggling badly to start the season and the Cardinals clearly didn't want to wait out his growing pains.

The two trades with Toronto limits the Cardinals' depth (as of right now) and leaves very few proven options behind shortstop Paul DeJong and outfielder Tommy Pham, who both enjoyed breakout seasons in 2017.

Meet the Prospects: Blake Rutherford

Meet the Prospects: Blake Rutherford

The White Sox rebuild is in full swing. While it might still be a year or two before the big league team is expected to start competing for championships, the minor leagues are stocked with highly touted talent fans will be eagerly following in 2018. With that in mind, it's time to Meet the Prospects and get to know the future of the South Side.

Blake Rutherford

Rutherford, the 20-year-old outfielder, was the highest-rated piece of the return package that came back to the White Sox in the seven-player deal that sent Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees last summer.

A California native, Rutherford was the 18th overall pick in the 2016 draft. After only playing rookie ball post-draft in 2016, he played 71 games with Class A Charleston last year before the trade, slashing .281/.342/.391 with 20 doubles and 30 RBIs to go along with a pair of home runs. After the trade, Rutherford played in 30 games with Class A Kannapolis, slashing .213/.289/.254 with 26 hits and 13 walks.

As of their most recent rankings, MLB Pipeline had Rutherford rated as the No. 4 prospect in the White Sox organization.

Get to know Rutherford in the video above.