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Is Peyton Manning eyeing a return this season?

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Is Peyton Manning eyeing a return this season?

From Comcast SportsNet

INDIANAPOLIS (AP)Colts owner Jim Irsay says there is an outside chance Peyton Manning might return in December.

Irsay used Twitter on Monday to update Colts fans on Mannings status after remarks he made during a private breakfast with Super Bowl donors.

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Team spokesman Avis Roper says Mannings status has not changed and the franchise quarterback has not been placed on season-ending injured reserve.

A few minutes later, Irsay wrote this: I didnt say Peyton out 4season FOR SURE,keeping him on ActiveRoster n taking it month by monthOutside chance of return n December possible. The final regular-season game is Jan. 1.

Manning has missed all three games this season after his third neck surgery in 19 months, and the Colts are off to an 0-3 start without the leagues four-time MVP.

Manning has been at Colts practices and was in the coaches box during Sunday nights loss to Pittsburgh. He had started 227 consecutive games, including the playoffs, before missing the season-opener.

Manning had neck surgery Sept. 8. The Colts have not discussed his recovery in detail, but he was expected to miss at least two months after having an anterior fusion to treat a nerve injury that was causing weakness in his triceps. The procedure normally involves making an incision in the front of the neck, removing soft disk tissue between the vertebrae and fusing the bones together with a graft. The goal is to ease pain or address a disk problem.

Some doctors have said the recovery can take four months or longer, which could keep Manning out all season.

Manning also had surgery May 23, but that did not fix the problem.

The Colts brought Kerry Collins out of retirement to replace Manning in the starting lineup but he has struggled and left the Steelers game to be evaluated for a possible concussion.

Curtis Painter took over in the fourth quarter and took the Colts 80 yards for their most meaningful offensive touchdown of the season, a 6-yard run from Joseph Addai. Painter went 5 of 11 for 60 yards with a 62.7 rating.

The poor start by Collins has led to speculation that the Colts might try to find another veteran to step inmaybe former Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard or retired Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.

A few fed-up fans have even suggested the Colts tank the season so they can draft Mannings eventual heir in April. Theyre hoping to get Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

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USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."