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Doughty's success is no surprise to former mentor O'Donnell

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Doughty's success is no surprise to former mentor O'Donnell

Drew Doughty brought the puck up ice, never breaking stride as he knifed through the New Jersey Devils and scored on Martin Brodeur. It was an impressive play by the young L.A. Kings defenseman, and his former on-ice mentor Sean ODonnell couldnt help but smile.

Hes like a pitcher, the Blackhawks defenseman said. He wants the ball in his hands when game is on the line.

When Doughty began his NHL career in 2008-09, the Kings wanted a veteran defenseman to help the youngsters transition to the big time. Enter ODonnell, who was brought in from Anaheim to do just that. Four years later, ODonnell is impressed with what Doughty has done in such a short amount of time.

But the 40-year-old ODonnell isnt taking credit for Doughtys emergence.

Its almost like a teacher who gets a kid in Grade 5 or 6 and they go on to great things. You watch with admiration and youre proud, and youre happy you were able to help. But he was going to be a great player no matter who played with him, said ODonnell, who was out in L.A. where the Kings are preparing for Game 3 against the Devils. Hes doing things I could never imagine on the ice. Just to see that raw player when he came to L.A.; if I had a one percent influence, it makes you proud.

Doughty was already plenty talented when he began his NHL career. But it didnt hurt pairing him with ODonnell, who at the time was in his 16th season as well as his second stint with the Kings. And when ODonnell talked, Doughty listened.

Hes a very smart player, ODonnell said. He was a little bit raw when he came in and I would try to tell him, This is what this guy likes to do, or, On a 3 on 2, lets play it this way. And he just got it. He understood why. You explained it, he got it and he stuck with it.

The pro sports spotlight can be glaring on a rising star. Doughtys dealt with some heady stuff this season, from holding out during contract negotiations to signing his massive contract eight years, 56 million to trying to live up to the deal. Doughty has definitely shown his worth through this postseason. And ODonnell said Doughtys attitude helps him through the ups and downs.

I dont know if hes realizing the magnitude of what he does. He just has fun all the time, doesnt let pressure overwhelm him, ODonnell said. I talked to him a couple times: he missed training camp, hes 22 years old, and when he had a bad game people would say, Look how much hes making. I cant believe he held out. I think he struggled with that at the end of the year but now he's playing well. He just has to have fun, and now hes kind of playing with the house money.

Doughty has already done so much in his young career. Hes won Olympic gold. Hes earned a Norris Trophy nomination. And now hes on the cusp of winning a Stanley Cup. Not a bad resume for a 22-year-old. What could Doughty do in the future? ODonnell said you dont want to put pressure on the young guy, that it takes time for a good defenseman to become a great defenseman. But Doughty certainly looks well on his way.

And perhaps ODonnell should take a little bit of credit for that.

I hear him say things like, I need to be the best defenseman on the ice. Hes not cocky or arrogant. Hes just confident, ODonnell said. If hes playing way he can, he cant be stopped.

Why Cubs might not lose again and other musings in strange, short season

Why Cubs might not lose again and other musings in strange, short season

As if things weren’t already going well enough for the Cubs during this strange, short season of baseball in a pandemic, now the baseball gods are dropping gifts into their laps.

The Cardinals’ lengthy shutdown because of a coronavirus outbreak has the Cubs’ arch rivals restarting their season Saturday in Chicago with a patched-up roster and eight games over the next five days, including five games against the Cubs.

And although that means the relative hardship of two doubleheaders for the Cubs in three days, all five of those games Monday through Wednesday are against a decimated Cards roster that won’t have the front end of its rotation for any of the games.

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They catch the Cardinals at their weakest point of the early season a week after catching an otherwise formidable Cleveland team at a moment of clubhouse crisis involving protocol perps Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger.

That one resulted in a two-game sweep by a combined score of 14-3.

This one already has resulted in all 10 games against the Cardinals now being scheduled for Wrigley Field.

Combine that with the three road games against the White Sox next month, and it means that the team with baseball’s best record on the field, the perfect record in player COVID-19 testing and no significant injuries to key players so far will play 60 percent of its games within its Chicago bubble if the Cubs and MLB pull off the full 60-game season.

If the Cubs were positioned any better to make the playoffs, they’d already be there.

“You can look at it that way if you want,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “We’re just doing our thing.”

No other way to look at it from here. Have you seen the rest of the schedule?

The Cubs have 43 games left, including 29 within a National League Central Division that doesn’t include another .500 team three weeks into a nine-week season. Nine more games are against the Tigers and White Sox.

The best team on the schedule is the Twins, and all three of those games are at home and not until the second-to-last weekend of the season.

With all due respect to Ross and his fear of “bad juju,” the Cubs can’t lose.

“It’s still early on,” the manager said.

Nothing’s early in a 60-game season. And the Cubs already have matched the hot starts of their 2016 and 1908 World Series champions.

“We’ve still got a long ways to go in the season,” Ross said.

The Cubs did have to scratch Tyler Chatwood from his scheduled start Friday night because of back tightness. And Kris Bryant has missed the last two games because of a sore finger after rolling his wrist trying to make a diving catch in left field in Cleveland Wednesday.

But Alec Mills looked good in short-notice replacement duty Friday until a rough four-pitch (and three-run) sequence in the sixth. And Chatwood might be ready for one of Monday’s games — or possibly one of Wednesday’s.

“Things falling in our favor?” Ross said. “We’re playing good baseball, and that should be the focus for me and not the other stuff.”

Granted, they still have to play the games. Granted, Bryant wasn’t available off the bench with the bases loaded in the eighth Friday, and Josh Phegley struck out instead.

And, yes, they actually lost a game to the Brewers Friday night.

But if you still don’t believe the baseball gods are stirring the Cubs’ pot so far this season, you weren’t paying attention in the ninth inning when Craig Kimbrel struck out Avisail Garcia swinging at a 98-mph fastball to start the scoreless inning and Manny Piña swinging at a 96-mph fastball to end it.

What closer problem? Bring on the Cardinals, right?

These guys might not lose another game.

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Cubs' Colin Rea to start on Saturday, Tyler Chatwood possibly Monday

Cubs' Colin Rea to start on Saturday, Tyler Chatwood possibly Monday

The Cubs plan to start swingman Colin Rea on Saturday against the Brewers, manager David Ross said after Friday's game.

Alec Mills was originally slated to pitch Saturday but was bumped up to Friday because Tyler Chatwood was scratched with mid-back tightness. The Cubs will evaluate Chatwood to see if he's an option to pitch on Monday, when they're scheduled to play a doubleheader against the Cardinals.

Rea, 30, has made two appearances this season, allowing no runs and one hit while striking out three in three innings. He was named the 2019 Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year, sporting a 3.95 ERA in 26 starts.

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Rea's last big league start was July 30, 2016 with the Marlins. He allowed one hit in 3 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out four with no walks.

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