Blackhawks

O'Donnell believes Torres can change for the better

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O'Donnell believes Torres can change for the better

GLENDALE, Ariz. Sean ODonnell has been hit by Raffi Torres a few times. All cleanly. The Blackhawks defenseman said the Phoenix forward is one of the hardest hitters in the game; and if he just channeled that the right way, he could have a nice, long career in this league.

ODonnell said Torres could pull a Matt Cooke transformation of his own if he wanted to, and could be known for just being a solid NHL player instead of the reputation hes currently got for himself.

Hopefully he takes a page from Matt Cooke, ODonnell said. He could be an effective player, can still be a physical player. Youve got to have more respect for some of the other guys.

Cooke is, indeed, a changed player. The Pittsburgh forward was a poster child for bad behavior in the league, racking up suspensions for a variety of incidents. Then in March of 2011, Cooke landed an elbow to Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. The NHL dropped the hammer on Cooke, suspending him the final 10 regular-season games and the first round of the NHL playoffs. Cooke told the Pittsburgh media that, I realize and understand, more so now than ever, that I need to change.

It took a little time for Cooke to adjust, to get out of the bad habits. But it worked and Cooke had a monster year for other reasons in 2011-12. Cooke has stayed out of trouble, set a new career high in goals (19) and recorded his highest point total (38) since the 2002-03 season (42 with the Vancouver Canucks).

Torres has shown he can be that player. He had two 20-goal seasons with the Edmonton Oilers early in his career. He was one of the Coyotes best players in the first two games of this series. And ODonnell said he could be that guy all the time.

I think Raffi is a very good player in this league, its just some of his hits, ODonnell said. He can hit really hard, even when hes clean. So when he does something like that (the hit on Marian Hossa), hes going to hurt someone. So hopefully he takes a look at some of his actions and plays a long time in his career and has a good career.

Maybe thats part of the message the NHL was trying to send to Torres. Cooke got it last season. Torres still has a chance to get it himself.

Its a stiff sentence, ODonnell said. Hopefully he looks in the mirror, has a good career but just plays more between the lines.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 8:45 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Corey Crawford vs. ... Oscar Dansk? 

The Golden Knights have seen both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban go down with injuries, so they're scraping for goaltenders at this point.

On one end of the ice, you have one of the best netminders in the league and a two-time Stanley Cup champion in Crawford. On the other, you have a 23-year-old rookie in Dansk making his first official NHL start who will be backed up by a 24-year-old rookie in Maxime Lagace, who has never appeared in an NHL game.

In his first game action, Dansk stopped 10 of 11 shots in relief during Saturday's 3-2 overtime win over St. Louis.

2. Fast start.

The Blackhawks are tied for second in both goals scored (13) and fewest goals allowed (four) in the first period, which has a large reason for their early season success.

The Golden Knights aren't the kind of team that gets out to a blazing start. They've allowed only five goals in the opening frame, but they've scored only five as well, which ranks among the bottom 10 teams in the league. 

3. Beware of James Neal.

The Golden Knights became the first team in NHL history to win six of their first seven games of their inaugural season. And they probably don't have half of those wins if it weren't for Neal, who scored the game-winning goal in each of their first three games.

He leads the club with six goals and eight points, and serves as the motor for a team that doesn't have much offensive talent. He's the go-to guy, and somebody you have to keep an eye on when he's on the ice.

 

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Tuesday night tilt against the Cavaliers on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. LeBron James will be on your television

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is must-see TV. Now in his 15th NBA season, James has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite playing just one preseason game (against the Bulls), James has shown anything but rust in three games, averaging 25.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 37 minutes. He's a threat every night to do something you've never seen on a basketball court, His Airness included. Justin Holiday and Paul Zipser will have their hands full against the game's best player.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Week 2

Small sample size alert! But through the season's first week Markkanen and Ben Simmons are the only rookies averaging a double-double (Dallas' Dennis Smith has played just one game, averaging 16 points and 10 assists). While the Bulls have struggled through two games, Markkanen's net rating is third best on the team and he leads the Bulls bigs in rebounds per game and rebound percentage. Markkanen has shown some versatility offensively, and his 7 free-throw attempts have been a nice surprise as well.

3. Don't forget: The Bulls swept the Cavaliers last year

OK, so expecting a victory Tuesday night in Cleveland isn't smart. The Bulls will be underdogs just like they were in each of the four games last season, all of which were Bulls winners. It was the first time in 52 division series that LeBron James had been swept, which is pretty remarkable considering the Bulls were the No. 8 seed and the Cavs coasted to a third straight NBA Finals. We're not over here predicting a win. But just remember: the Bulls have fared well against James in the regular season.