Bears

Blackhawks want more traffic in front of Smith

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Blackhawks want more traffic in front of Smith

GLENDALE, Ariz. Jonathan Toews gave his assessment after the Blackhawks 3-2 overtime loss to Phoenix on Thursday. They did a lot of good things, played their game for the most part. Just a few little tweaks needed to be done.

Two of them include eradicating those turnovers and making life a lot harder on Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith.

The Blackhawks had a rough second period in which they struggled to move and turned the puck over. That, and lack of hard-to-see shots against Smith were costly in their loss. So the Blackhawks talked on Friday about shoring up a few things.

The second period we had the puck on our stick; it wasnt like they had to make any indirect plays, said coach Joel Quenneville, who added that there could be some changes for Game 2. We have to be more effective, efficient in that area. The onus is on the puck carrier to be responsible.

The Blackhawks had particular trouble midway through the second period, when clearing the puck from their zone became an ordeal. The Coyotes tied the game on that prolonged possession, which had a tired group of Blackhawks on the ice.

Marian Hossa said the team may have gotten too particular on its passing.

It felt like the first period was really good and the second started turning pucks over. Maybe we tried to make big plays too much instead of keeping it simple in the neutral zone. Maybe chip it in and go for it instead of always finding tape-to-tape passes.

Once they get that taken care of they can get back to attacking Smith. Yes, the Blackhawks fired plenty of shots at him in Game 1; 45 to be exact. But the big, mobile Smith could see most of them en route to stopping 43. Meanwhile, it was the Coyotes getting those deflected, traffic-bred goals, and the Blackhawks know they need more of those in their game.

Hes a good goaltender, and hes going to see a lot of pucks. Traffic is probably the biggest thing, Patrick Kane said. We have to get traffic around the net, try to squeak some by him. Hes going to stop the ones he sees.

The Game 1 loss wasnt the end of the world, but it was a wake-up call. This is not going to be an easy series against a gritty, opportunistic team with a red-hot goaltender. The Blackhawks will make their tweaks and hopefully make a bigger statement come Game 2.

Its not fun to lose Game 1 but we have a long way to go. Well bounce back from this, Toews said. Well improve on certain details and well be just fine. Well be even tougher to play against. We want to steal one here tomorrow night and go home with a good feeling and not let that get away from us.

Three keys and prediction: Bears - Cardinals

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USA TODAY

Three keys and prediction: Bears - Cardinals

1. Explosive passing plays. The Seahawks didn’t respect Mitch Trubisky’s ability to do this on Monday night, leading to the dollar store version of the Legion of Boom stacking the box and successful selling out to stop Jordan Howard. Perhaps if Trubisky connected with Allen Robinson on an early deep ball that was picked off, or to a wide-open Gabriel over the middle, Seattle would’ve had to back off from frequently dropping safety Bradley McDougald into the box. 

The point being: The best chance the Bears’ offense has of success, even against a defense that’s allowing a touch over six yards per play, is for Trubisky to link up with a receiver for a big-chunk play. It could be on a downfield throw, or maybe a catch-and-run to Gabriel or Tarik Cohen. Either way, Trubisky and this offense needs to quickly establish that they can make big-chunk plays through the air. Consistency, otherwise, may be hard to come by on Sunday. 

“Just (Matt) Nagy, he’s a great mind and just scripting those things,” Gabriel said. “When the deep ball is there, I’m pretty sure this week we’re going to take it. But at the same time the deep ball, it opens up a lot of things.” 

2. Leonard Floyd winning his one-on-one matchup with left tackle D.J. Humphries. A couple of factors in favor of Floyd: First, he’s no longer wearing a club on his right hand, and his smaller brace allows him use of his fingers. Second, Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries has allowed 10 pressures in 70 pass blocking snaps this year, according to Pro Football Focus. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said it’d be unfair to make any conclusions about Floyd’s season based on two relatively quiet, club-inhibited games. Sunday will be a good opportunity for Floyd to get after Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford, just as he did last year for two sacks (one of which was a safety) when a banged-up Bradford came to Chicago with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5. 

3. Finish in the fourth quarter. The Bears’ defense has dominated for six of the eight quarters it's played this year, but of the 41 points it’s allowed, 35 have come in the final 15 minutes. Granted, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are two of the more clutch late-game quarterbacks in the NFL, while Bradford has been horrendous this year (maybe the fourth quarter quarterback will be rookie Josh Rosen, for all we know). Either way, this could mean a few things: Kyle Fuller making a play on a would-be touchdown — this after getting beat by perfect throws for scores against the Packers and Seahawks — or, like last week, a couple of players coming up with game-sealing interceptions or forced fumbles. 

Prediction: Bears 20, Cardinals 9. The Cardinals’ defense might be better than its early-season numbers suggest, but Arizona’s offense will struggle to move the ball with any consistency against the Bears’ defense. We’ll say the Bears keep everything in front of them and allow only three field goals (hey, Arizona has to kick one at *some* point this year, right?) while Mitch Trubisky leads a pair of touchdown and field goal drives each to pace a comfortable victory. 

Inflammatory arthritis to keep Omer Asik out indefinitely

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USA TODAY

Inflammatory arthritis to keep Omer Asik out indefinitely

It was announced on Saturday morning, that Omer Asik will be out indefinitely. 

Asik had an arthritis flare up over the summer, and that is the key to his current diagnosis. The Bulls acquired Asik last season in the Nikola Mirotic trade with the New Orleans Pelicans.

He has two years and north of $22 million left on his contract (including this current season).

The Bulls never expected Asik to play heavy minutes, and this injury puts his 2018-19 season in jeopardy, 

This is Asik's second stint with the Bulls, as he played with Chicago in the first two seasons of his career.