Fire

Mayers having success on power play

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Mayers having success on power play

ST. LOUIS Jamal Mayers didnt have a whole lot of power-play experience entering this season.

The veteran center is a solid penalty killer and a nose-to-the-grindstone type of player. But the power play? Well, having a big body in front to deflect, redirect and obstruct on the man advantage is always beneficial. And recently, Mayers has been filling that role very well.

Mayers has been on the ice for all three of the teams power-play goals in recent games, and its one more part of his game that has the Blackhawks happy they signed him last summer. For Mayers, the power-play formula is simple: win a face-off and get in the opposing goalies ways, pronto.

You just try to get in front of the net and make it difficult for the goalie to see the puck, said Mayers. Weve got enough skill guys on this team that, if you make it hard for the goalie to see, hopefully some pucks go in.

Patrick Sharp said Mayers has been a welcome addition to the power-play, which went 0 for 39 before last weekends game in Anaheim.

Its no secret that, since hes been there, weve scored a few goals, Sharp said. Hes great in the face-off circle, which is a big part of the power play every time. He goes right to the front of the net and hes an option to put it in the net as well. He brings a heck of a lot more to the team than that, too.

That includes the physical presence, which Mayers has showcased plenty throughout his career. When Jonathan Toews was getting roughed up by the Sharks in February, Mayers was the one fighting Ryan Clowe soon after.

Hes had a real good year, coach Joel Quenneville said. Hes been very consistent in his role, be it at center or with energy. Game in and out, Jammers done what weve wanted.

And now that Mayers is flanked by big rookies Brandon Bollig and Jimmy Hayes, the Blackhawks have a deeper physical element again.

Its just fun to watch that from the bench sometimes and see guys play physical like that, especially when we havent had that kind of presence in our lineup the past couple of years, said Patrick Kane.

There was one play, (Detroits Justin) Abdelkader has the puck in the air and Jammer just runs him over. Its just physical plays like that that gets players like me pumped up, Kane said. Hes been great. Hes a player who deserves a lot of credit for the teams success.

That includes the recent power-play success, too.

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

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USA TODAY

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

Coach Veljko Paunovic still went with a second-choice lineup to start the Fire's preseason match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Wednesday, but the second half featured the first preseason action for Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Schweinsteiger came on for the second half, along with Nemanja Nikolic, Johan Kappelhof and a few other Fire regulars. The German sat out the first four preseason games, but looked sharp in his 45 minutes.

One of the highlights was this smooth move between two defenders:

Schweinsteiger also had an impressive switch pass to set up a shot for second-round pick Diego Campos in the final minutes of the game. Campos drilled the shot on target, but was unable to beat the goalkeeper.

The team did not say Schweinsteiger was injured despite the repeated absences in matches. The Fire have dealt with injuries to Matt Polster, Luis Solignac, Daniel Johnson and rookie Grant Lillard this preseason. None of those four, along with Dax McCarty, played in the 0-0 draw.

The Fire next play Saturday at Orlando in a final match in Florida before returning to Chicago. The Fire also play Tulsa, the team's USL affiliate, at Toyota Park on March 3 before taking on Sporting Kansas City in the season opener on March 10.

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

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AP

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

The Bulls made headlines on Tuesday when VP John Paxson announced that David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne would be entering the rotation, thus continuing the youth movement in Chicago.

On the surface the moves make sense. The 24-year-old Nwaba, the 25-year-old Felicio and the 23-year-old Cameron Payne will be replacing 28-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Robin Lopez and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. The Bulls want to see what they have in these younger players who haven't played much; they already know what they have in Lopez and Holiday, and Grant (like the other two) is under contract through next year.

OK, got that? Here's why they're making the move: they're sitting 8th in the NBA Lottery standings and really want to move into the top-5 to give themselves a chance at what should be a loaded front-end of the draft class. It's pretty obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either named Gar Forman, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg.

And here's why: On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined a whopping $600,000 by the NBA for comments he made on a podcast regarding tanking. The Mavericks are currently 18-40, the third worst record in the NBA. This comes a season after they finished 33-49, netting them the No. 9 pick that turned into talented point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

So when Cuban was asked about the best interests of his Dallas team, which touts young talent but clearly isn't headed for the postseason in 2018, he said this on the House Call with Dr. J Podcast:

"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren't competing for the playoffs. I was like, 'Look, losing is our best option. [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we're not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that's the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability."

Cuban isn't wrong, and the Mavericks sure as hell aren't the only team tanking. But to come right now and admit that losing is the team's best option wasn't, as Cuban predicted, going to sit well with the league office.

Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo with the fine that said Cuban's comments "which concerned his perspective on the team's competitive success this season" were "detrimental to the NBA."

So while the Bulls are going about their business in trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible, don't expect anyone to admit it's the reason behind their personnel moves. There are 600,000 reasons why.