Blackhawks

Oft-injured pitcher set to return for Opening Day

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Oft-injured pitcher set to return for Opening Day

From Comcast SportsNet
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) -- After a spring full of injury-related news, finally some relief for the New York Mets: Johan Santana will start on opening day. The left-hander, returning from shoulder surgery performed in September 2010, met with manager Terry Collins in his office Sunday. Later, Collins announced that Santana was set to pitch at home against the Atlanta Braves. "After we talked to Johan yesterday after he threw, I walked by him and he said to me at the end, You've got your pitcher for Thursday,'" Collins said. Santana made his last spring training start Monday against St. Louis and worked a brief bullpen session Saturday. "It means a lot," he said. "It means that everything we've done from surgery to today has paid off. We worked hard, and I'm very happy." "I'm happy to have the opportunity to start the season from Day One with the team. That's something I was really looking forward to," the two-time Cy Young winner said. Santana was 0-1 with a 3.44 ERA in five exhibition starts. "He said to me in the winter, I came to New York to be the opening day starter. If I can do it, I'll be there.' He's ready to go," Collins said. The 33-year-old Santana has been rehabbing the anterior capsule in his shoulder since the surgery that cut short his 2010 season. He pitched briefly in the minors last year. Collins will have a built-in luxury that will help with easing Santana into the mix. Six of his first seven scheduled starts will include an extra day of rest simply because of the way New York's schedule unfolds. Left fielder Jason Bay was eager to see Santana return, especially after the Mets lost shortstop Jose Reyes to the Miami Marlins in free agency. "(Johan) brings a lot of the same type of energy that Jose had brought. We obviously lost Jose and not having Johan around all year last year, so getting him back is getting the energy back," Bay said. "It's almost like picking up another guy because you've missed him for the whole year. It's nice to have that back," Bay said. Right-hander Dillon Gee said the club will immediately feel the impact of Santana's return. "It's important to see him back," Gee said. "Everyone wanted to see Johan on opening day. The prestige of Johan on opening day is a benchmark." Collins said R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Gee would round out the rotation in that order behind Santana.

Blackhawks trade Artem Anisimov to Senators for Zack Smith

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks trade Artem Anisimov to Senators for Zack Smith

The Blackhawks are spending the next week focusing on their prospects at development camp, but GM Stan Bowman took care of some housekeeping items on the big club on Tuesday when he traded forward Artem Anisimov to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for forward Zack Smith.

Anisimov had two years left on his contract that carries a $4.55 million cap hit, but his modified no-trade clause was removed on July 1, which opened up more trade possibilities. He was also owed a $2 million signing bonus when the new calendar year opened and his actual salary over the next two years dropped to $5 million total, giving a rebuilding team like the Senators a chance to add a depth forward for a lower price.

Couple that with the fact Anisimov's role with the Blackhawks has diminished over the years and you can see why this traded was made from Chicago's point of view. 

Smith compiled 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) in 70 games for the Senators last season, and served as the alternate captain during the 2017-18 campaign. He's known to be a power forward, can play a heavy game and has experience playing center or wing. The 31-year-old has one year left on his contract that carries a cap hit of $3.25 million. 

With the trade, the Blackhawks opened up $1.3 million in cap space, which gives them some financial flexibility to make transactions throughout the season and potentially re-sign Brendan Perlini, who remains an unsigned restricted free agent.

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Pro Football Focus: Bears have NFL’s best run defense entering 2019

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USA Today

Pro Football Focus: Bears have NFL’s best run defense entering 2019

Pro Football Focus doesn’t seem to expect much regression for the Bears defense, at least when it comes to run defense.

PFF analyst Mike Renner ranked every team’s ability to stop the ground game, heading into 2019, and Chicago remains on top.

The team retained its entire front seven, top-to-bottom, with the exception of Sam Acho, who spent most of last season on injured reserve anyway.

One of the biggest keys, in Renner’s analysis, is Akiem Hicks, who was among Pro Football Focus’ top performers in the running game.

“The former Saint is proving himself one of the best free agent additions in recent memory,” Renner wrote. “His 13.3 run-stop percentage was the second-highest figure of any interior defender in the NFL last season.”

The Bears allowed the fewest rushing yards and rushing touchdowns of any defense last season, and the 3.8 yards per attempt they gave up was fourth best.

With the whole gang back together for 2019, the team is in a great spot to run it back under Chuck Pagano.