Blackhawks

Camp chatter: Drake defends Hester, Carimi looking healthy

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Camp chatter: Drake defends Hester, Carimi looking healthy

Cleaning out the notebook from day one and looking to day two.

Brian Urlacher was wearing a brace on his left knee, which was injured in game 16. He was in every practice session and looked to be moving well. Whether he goes full on Friday is something to watch, since there could be some swelling after a return day, in addition to Saturday looming as the first big day in pads.

Receivers coach Darryl Drake is the first to get inside the facemask of his guys and get in it hard. Hes also the first to bare those sharp teeth when he thinks his boys are being unfairly criticized.

Like Devin Hester, when one reporter noted that Hester had just 26 receptions last year (after 51, 57 and 40 the preceding three seasons).

The only time he had 26 was last year, Drake declared. We didnt throw it to him. It wasnt his fault.

-- Tackle Gabe Carimi also went through a full practice on his surgically repaired knee and wasnt impaired. Neither was Julius Peppers on one snap where he accelerated on an outside route past Carimi and into a position to have turned Jay Cutler into road kill.

-- Kahlil Bell, a No. 3 running back with a 1.26 million one-year contract, put himself in some early roster jeopardy with the first fumble of camp. Fumbling was a concern with Bell last season and will be his ticket out of Chicago if there are many repeats.

-- Coordinator Mike Tice was clearly fuming about the number of drops and fumbles by members of his offense, and also about the unimpressive first showing of his offensive line.

Im not going to put up with any crap as far as turning guys free and not protecting the quarterback, Tice said.

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

He’s back.

Corey Crawford will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 23, 2017 when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes, coach Joel Quenneville confirmed after morning skate on Thursday morning.

"It’s exciting," Quenneville said. "I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and we’re all excited about it as well. It’ll be a fun situation for the guys, seeing him back in the net as well. So we’re looking for everyone to be excited about tonight’s game."

The two-time Stanley Cup champion was medically cleared to practice from his concussion on Oct. 1, but the Blackhawks wanted to give Crawford as much time as he needed to get his conditioning and puck-tracking skills up to game speed before putting him into game action.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said on Wednesday. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. It was a pretty long process. ... Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

To make room for Crawford on the 23-man roster, the Blackhawks will assign forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Brandon Saad, who wore a white healthy scratch jersey all week at practice, will take his spot in the lineup.

For now, the Blackhawks will hang on to Anton Forsberg and carry three goaltenders as insurance as they get ready to start a seven-games-in-11-days stretch.

Crawford was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts in 28 games last season. The Blackhawks were 17-30-8 without him and finished last in the Central Division.

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

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USA TODAY

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

The Bulls faced a steep test opening their 2018-19 campaign against the Philadelphia 76ers.

That task won't become any easier with Kris Dunn missing the game for personal reasons, head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters at shootaround on Thursday.

Dunn's exlusion opens up an opportunity for Cameron Payne, who will enter the starting lineup. Payne started 14 games for the Bulls last season, averaging 9.4 points and 5.6 assists in 26.5 minutes.

It also moves up Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis, both of whom will be active, in the rotation. Expect both to see at least some playing time, especially with Denzel Valentine also out while recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in training camp.

It could mean an even bigger evening for Sixers point guard Ben Simmons. The reigning Rookie of the Year posted 19 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists in Philly's season-opening loss to the Celtics on Tuesday.