Blackhawks

Cubs rotation picture coming into focus

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Cubs rotation picture coming into focus

MESA, Ariz. You cant do instant analysis here, not when some regulars are showered and out the door before the game ends.

But if you listen closely and observe, you can slowly see the picture coming into focus. The Cubs have two spots open in their rotation, and thats the biggest roster story still to be written this spring.

Staring down at the clubhouse carpet, Travis Wood was definitely feeling a sense of urgency after getting one out in Wednesdays 10-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in front of 11,682 fans at HoHoKam Stadium.

Its typical to say its early, working out all the kinks, but its time to go, Wood said. I had two outings so far and neither one went as planned. So now its just time to get after it.

Wood is the promising 25-year-old left-hander acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in the Sean Marshall trade. He gave up six runs five earned on three hits and two walks. He didnt look particularly sharp in an intra-squad scrimmage (six runs) or a start against the White Sox.

These are absurdly small sample sizes, but its the middle of March and significant cuts will be coming after this weekends trip to Las Vegas. Major decisions will have to be made.

Randy Wells helped his cause by throwing three scoreless innings against the Brewers. He had also bailed Wood out of a bases-loaded jam against the White Sox last week by getting Paul Konerko to ground into an inning-ending double play.

You guys keep asking the same question, Wells said. For every guy, you cant really think about it. If you do, its going to eat at you and one bad outings going to get in your head. I dont think you can worry about that.

For the most part, these guys are pretty good talent evaluators. Thats why theyre in (this) position. If guys can go out and work on things and get better each day, then its going to be a tough decision on them. You cant sit here and really try to play a managerial game behind the scenes.

(When) its our turn to pitch, we pitch and see what happens.

Wells is used to having to fight for a spot in the rotation. There is a reasonable expectation of knowing what youd get as long as he stays healthy. Hes 27-30 with a 4.01 ERA in 500-plus innings in the big leagues, a very capable fifth starter whos probably been overlooked.

Deep down, the Cubs see so much upside in Chris Volstad (32-39, 4.59 ERA), whos 25 years old, 6-foot-8 and a former first-round pick. Hes already thrown six scoreless innings in the Cactus League. The South Florida native is viewed as a classic change-of-scenery guy after being traded from the Miami Marlins in the Carlos Zambrano deal.

Its also hard to ignore the glowing praise manager Dale Sveum has repeatedly used to describe Jeff Samardzijas game. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, the Cubs feel like his bodys designed to handle 200 innings. He has swing-and-miss stuff and team officials think he can use last season (8-4, 2.97 ERA) as a springboard.

Quietly, Rodrigo Lopez has thrown four scoreless innings and worked on the slider that made him a 15-game winner with the Baltimore Orioles. The 36-year-old right-hander wound up being good insurance last season (6-6, 4.42 ERA) and the new front office made pitching depth a priority.

Outside of Samardzija who seems likely to be ticketed for the rotation Sveum has said that he doesnt think any of the starting candidates would fit at the back end of the bullpen as the second setup man.

That power-arm void isnt going to be used against Samardzija he will be given every opportunity to earn a job in the rotation.

Needs not going to dictate the decision, Sveum said. Anybodys need is always starting pitching.

Corey Crawford to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Capitals

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USA Today

Corey Crawford to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Capitals

Corey Crawford will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they take on the Washington Capitals at the United Center on Sunday, coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed after morning skate. This will be his fourth start in six games.

Crawford is coming off a game in which he stopped 27 of 28 shots for a save percentage of .964, which earned him the No. 1 star of the game in a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday. He stopped 10 of 11 shots and six of seven inner slot shots, saving his team an extra 2.43 goals above average, according to The Point. It was a fantastic performance.

Crawford is 3-5-2 with a 3.61 goals-against average and .881 save percentage in 10 career starts against the Capitals.

The Blackhawks are on the second game of a seven-games-in-12-days stretch, so expect Crawford and Lehner to both get consistent reps over the next two weeks.

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Blackhawks No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach set to make NHL debut on Sunday vs. Capitals

Blackhawks No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach set to make NHL debut on Sunday vs. Capitals

It's official: Kirby Dach is slated to make his NHL debut on Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Washington Capitals. He found out the news when he got to the rink in the morning.

"It's pretty exciting," Dach said. "Grew up my whole life wanting to do this, so for me to get this opportunity now, it's awesome. Kind of speechless and at a loss for words. I've just got to go out there and play my game and focus on all the little things that the coaching staff wants me to do."

Coach Jeremy Colliton said who Dach draws in for and where he will slot into the lineup will be determined during warmups, but don't be surprised if he starts on the wing.

"I think he can play either one, which is a big benefit for us," Colliton said. "Probably long term he’s a center, but it’s only a benefit to be versatile."

Dach, who was taken No. 3 overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, missed the start of training camp with a concussion and appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League for a conditioning stint before getting recalled on Friday. His mom, dad and sister will be in attendance for his debut.

"It's a pretty surreal feeling," Dach said. "It's kind of a whirlwind. You're just kind of getting thrown in right away and you don't really have time to react. You just got to focus on the game and not really sit back and realize what's going on. You've got to be pretty mentally dialed in and ready to play.

"There's going to be a little bit of nerves with it, but I'm excited to get out there and have fun."

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