Blackhawks

Kap: Rizzo to debut Tuesday?

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Kap: Rizzo to debut Tuesday?

The arrival of heralded prospect Anthony Rizzo is imminent with Tuesday expected to be the day that he begins his Cubs career and as the long-term answer as the first baseman in Chicago.

Rizzo has dominated AAA pitching for the better part of the last two seasons and he will arrive in Chicago with the weight of a struggling franchise on his shoulders no matter how much Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer may try to tamper the enthusiasm of the longest suffering fan base in professional sports.

While speculation centered on Rizzos arrival coming while the Cubs were playing this weekend in Arizona or during interleague play, it makes sense to bring him up to the big league club on Tuesday or Wednesday when the Cubs will play the New York Mets.

Monday the Mets will start one of the toughest left-handers in baseball in veteran Johan Santana who dominates hitters with a variety of off-speed pitches including a devastating changeup that even the best hitters in the game can look foolish on.

The Cubs front office wants to put Rizzo in the best possible position to succeed and having him make his debut on Tuesday or Wednesday is a much better scenario than having him face Santana in addition to all of the hoopla that will coincide with his arrival at Wrigley Field.

Fans need to temper their expectations regarding Rizzo because he arrives in an impossible situation, on a last place team and expected to automatically become an All-Star caliber player. He is a solid offensive player and a very good defender but he needs time to learn the major league game and he needs to experience failure before he can truly achieve the heights that many are predicting for him.

Dont look for him in the lineup at Wrigley Field on Monday night but if you can clear your schedule for Tuesday night, that might be a great opportunity to watch one of the best prospects the organization has had in a long time make his Cubs debut.

They have only been looking for a left-handed difference maker since Rafael Palmeiro was traded away before the 1989 season and with the exception of Mark Grace, who never drove in 100 runs but was a solid hitter, the Cubs have been almost devoid of left-handed run production in the past 20 years.

Rizzo should be an important core piece as Epstein and Hoyer continue their overhaul of the worst team in baseball and if he is what they expect him to be, it would be cool to say you saw his first game ever in a Cubs uniform.

That opportunity should come early this week at Wrigley Field.

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

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USA TODAY

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. 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."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."

Bill Belichick scoffs at Khalil Mack-Lawrence Taylor comparison

Bill Belichick scoffs at Khalil Mack-Lawrence Taylor comparison

All of the good graces Bill Belichick may have won on Tuesday afternoon -- when he compared the Bears' offense to Kansas City's -- are officially gone. 

Today, when talking to reporters, a Khalil Mack-Lawrence Taylor comparison came up. Belichick, who coached LT as the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator in the 1980s, was NOT having it: 

"Wait a minute, we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor now. I’m not putting anybody in (LT’s) class. Put everybody down below that. With a lot of respect to a lot of good players, we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor."

A bit harsh, Bill. 

For what it's worth, here's Khalil Mack's 2018 projection, assuming his latest ankle injury doesn't make him miss time: 

20 sacks, four interceptions, 16 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries

That's .5 sacks less and four INTS, 16 FFs and 4 recoveries more than LT had in his 1986 MVP season. And yeah, maybe "they didn't record tackles/fumbles in 1986" and "16 forced fumbles would not only blow the current record (10) out of the water but is just plain unrealistic" but whatever, we're just sayin'. 

UPDATE: shocker, LT agrees: