Bulls

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.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.