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Five reasons to watch Bulls-Nets classic tonight

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Five reasons to watch Bulls-Nets classic tonight

Tonight at 7:30, Comcast SportsNet unveils the first of it's Bulls Classics series featuring 15 of the greatest games in franchise history. With that in mind, here and five things to watch from the Bulls' classic 128-113 win over the NewJersey Nets on Feb. 26, 1987, in which Michael Jordan scored athen-franchise record 58 points:

1) Jordan averaged 37.1 points per game in his third season as a pro,so his scoring outburst -- a regular-season record, as he scored 63against the Boston Celtics in the 1986 playoffs -- wasn't exactly ashocker. However, his efficiency (he was 15-for-16 from the floor and26-for-27 from the charity stripe) was remarkable. He didn't evenattempt, let alone make, any three-pointers and it's not as if heneglected other aspects of the game, corralling eight rebounds, swipingthree steals and even blocking a pair of shots. Additionally, he playedonly 37 minutes, below the 40 minutes per game he averaged that season,in which he played all 82 games after playing in only 18 the previousyear due to a foot injury.
2) "A championship" was Jordan's answer when the late, great Johnny"Red" Kerr asked him "what's next?" in a postgame interview, but hewould have to wait four more years to realize that goal. The Bullsfinished the 1986-87 season with a 40-42 record, failing to advance tothe playoffs in Doug Collins' first year as head coach. Futuremainstays like Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant were still collegeplayers at the time, but the addition of the forward duo in the 1987NBA Draft built the foundation of the team for the beginning of itsspree of titles.

3) Bulls power forward Charles Oakley was eventually traded to New Yorkin exchange for Bill Cartwright, a move which Jordan reportedly wasn't fond. Oakley would miss out on Chicago's championship run, asCartwright was an important piece of the franchise's first three-peat,often having to defeat Oakley's rival Knicks. A young Oakley, now anassistant coach with the Jordan-owned Charlotte Bobcats, already wasdeveloping into one of the league's premier rebounders -- he led the NBAin the category that season and the next -- made clear by his 17 boardsin this outing and would go on to be known as one of the most ruggeddefenders of his era. However, he hadn't yet become the accuratemid-range shooter that he'd be later in his career, as evidenced by his5-for-18 night from the field, although he did hand out seven assistson the evening.

4) Current Bulls executive vice president John Paxson, who scored 16points and distributed five assists that night, started next to Jordanin the backcourt, a role he held through the organization's first twotitles before passing the torch to B.J. Armstrong for Chicago's thirdchampionship season. In fact, Paxson was the only member of the 1986-87Bulls to remain on the team long enough to win a title, although oneplayer who would return to the Bulls later -- replacing Jordan during hisfirst retirement -- was Pete Myers, who was hired by the Golden StateWarriors as an assistant coach this offseason.

5) That season's edition of the Nets was an interesting group. NewJersey was led in scoring that night by blue-collar power forward BuckWilliams with 25 points, while Orlando Woolridge -- who would lead theteam in scoring after coming from the Bulls the previouscampaign -- chipped in with 20 off the bench. As Sam Smith noted onBulls.com, current NBA referee Leon Wood -- who won an Olympic gold medalwith Jordan in 1984 -- was another Nets reserve, scoring 10 points. MikeGminski turned in a strong effort with 14 points and 13 boards, whilerookie Pearl Washington, a college star at Syracuse turned NBA bust,and Albert King, brother of the more accomplished Bernard, were alsostarters.

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Neil Funk and Stacey King will host each game in-studio, sharing their memories from the game.

The full schedule is as follows:

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.February 26, 1987:New Jersey Nets at Chicago Bulls

Jordan sets a new all-time Bulls scoring record with 58 points; also sets new Bulls record of 2627 from the free throw line, including 19 straight; terrific post-game interview with the late Johnny Red Kerr asking MJ Whats next?the youthful Jordans response: an NBA Championship.

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m.February 16, 1989:Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls

Jordan scores 27 of his 50 points in 4th quarter, including a 20-footer with one second remaining on the clock.

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 7:30 p.m.May 7, 1989:Round 1, Game 5 - Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers

The Shot: Jordan hits game-winning shot at buzzer over Craig Ehlo giving the Bulls a huge first round upset against the Cavs.

Tuesday, Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m.June 12, 1991:NBA Finals, Game 5 - Chicago Bulls at LA Lakers

Bulls celebrate first NBA Championship, Jordan scores 30 points, to go along with ten assists and five steals. Coverage includes post-game locker room coverage of Jordan clutching the Larry OBrien NBA Championship Trophy with his father James Jordan at his side.

Wednesday, Nov. 30, 7:30 p.m.June 3, 1992:NBA Finals, Game. 1 - Portland Trailblazers at Chicago Bulls

Jordans infamous shrug told the story as he was six of ten from three-point range with 35 points in the first half.

Tuesday, Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m.June 14, 1992:NBA Finals, Game. 6 - Portland Trailblazer at Chicago Bulls

Bulls win back-to-back NBA titles and celebrate their first home court championship at Chicago Stadium.

Tuesday, Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m.May 17, 1993:Round 2, Game 4 - Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers

Jordan hits game-ending, series-clinching Shot II" reminiscent of his playoff series-clincher at Cleveland four years earlier.

Tuesday, Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m.May 31, 1993:Eastern Conference Finals, Game 4 - New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls

On this Memorial Day telecast, Jordan shines once again with a stellar 54-point performance that tied the series at 2-2.

Tuesday, Dec. 27, 7:30 p.m.June 16, 1993:NBA Finals, Game 4 - Phoenix Suns at Chicago Bulls

The Bulls go up 3-1 in the Finals against Sir Charles & the Suns as Jordan dominates with 55 points.

Tuesday, Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m.June 20, 1993:NBA Finals, Game 6 - Chicago Bulls at Phoenix Suns

John Paxson hits three-point championship-winning shot with 3.9 seconds left, giving the Bulls their first three-peat.

Monday, Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m.March 28, 1995:Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks

In just his fifth game back from retirement, No. 45 Jordan scores 55 points and sets up Bill Wennington for a game-winning slam dunk at the famed Madison Square Garden.

Monday, Jan. 16, 7:30 p.m.June 16, 1996:NBA Finals, Game 6 - Seattle Supersonics at Chicago Bulls

Bulls cap off record-breaking 72-10 regular season by downing the Sonics at the United Center for their fourth NBA title.

Monday, Jan. 23, 7:30 p.m.June 11, 1997:NBA Finals, Game 5 - Chicago Bulls at Utah Jazz

A flu-stricken, yet determined Michael Jordan scores a game-high 38 points, giving the Bulls a 3-2 Finals series edge.

Monday, Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.June 13, 1997:NBA Finals, Game. 6 - Utah Jazz at Chicago Bulls
Steve Kerr scores a 17-footer with five seconds left in the fourth quarter, followed by Toni Kukoc cementing the deal with a slam dunk with 0.6 seconds left, as the Bulls send the United Center crowd into delirium winning their fifth NBA title.

Monday, Feb. 6, 7:30 p.m.June 14, 1998:NBA Finals, Game 6 - Chicago Bulls at Utah Jazz
Jordan hits historic game-winning shot as the Bulls clinch their sixth NBA Championship. Jordan finishes with 45 points in his final appearance in a Bulls uniform and named NBA Finals MVP for the sixth time.

All times are Central Time. Schedule subject to change.

Power Rankings Roundup: People are pretty apathetic about losing to the Patriots

Power Rankings Roundup: People are pretty apathetic about losing to the Patriots

While the notion of a "good loss" is more coachspeak than anything of real substance, it looks like NFL media agree. 

After a close loss to the Patriots -- about three feet close, to be exact -- Power Rankings makers aren't blaming the Bears too much. In fact, shoutout to our mothership, Big NBC Sports, for actually *raising* the Bears in their latest rankings. Thanks guys! 

Here's what they're saying: 

Ours: #17, down 4 -
You can do worse than barely losing to the Patriots, but what on earth has happened to Chicago's defense?

NBCSports: #10, up 1 - 
Bears went toe-to-toe with the Patriots and made it to the later rounds before taking one on the chin. No shame in that.

NFL.com: #11, N/A - 
The opportunities were there for the Bears, who took it to the Patriots in the first half Sunday. The second half was a different story, as Chicago was stuck in catch-up mode.

Washington Post: #16, down 1 - 
The Bears came up a yard shy of a tying TD on the Hail Mary against the Patriots. This was a far less egregious loss than falling to Brock Osweiler and the Dolphins a week earlier. But it was still a loss.

ESPN: #13, down 1 - 
Need more from: RB Jordan Howard. Howard is averaging only 3.46 yards per rush, which ranks 41st out of 47 qualifying running backs. Bears running backs as a whole rank 30th with 1.45 yards after contact per rush, and Mitchell Trubisky has led the team in rushing in two of the past three games.

Sports Illustrated: #18, N/A - 
The Bears were 3-1 before starting a four-game tour of the AFC East. They need to take care of business against the Jets and Bills to keep pace in a tough NFC North.

Sporting News: #16, down 1 - 
Mitchell Trubisky and the offense have become a fun, unpredictable and mostly explosive roller-coaster ride, but the defense is showing it has plenty of leaks behind Khalil Mack.

FanSided: #17, down 2 - 
Mitchell Trubisky and those special teams were a disaster on Sunday.

Bleacher Report: #15, N/A - 
The problem is the Bears also have five tough divisional games remaining, including two with the Vikings. A date with the Rams also looms. However, if the Bears take care of business in the first four games mentioned, they will need to go just 3-3 in their remaining six matchups to go 10-6 and (presumably) make the playoffs.

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."