From the other bench: Smith steals game at United Center


From the other bench: Smith steals game at United Center

The Blackhawks never stopped believing they had a chance, peppering goalie Mike Smith all night long with 39 shots on goal. Smith answered the challenge, stopping everything he saw and slowly but surely sucked the energy out of the boisterous crowd. Andrew Shaw returned to the lineup after serving a three game suspension and spent most of the game blinding Smith, but it didnt matter. Smith once again stole the spotlight against the Blackhawks, and was all the rave after the Coyotes series clinching victory.

Smiths performance was best summed up by captain Shane Doan.

He was unbelievable, Doan told the A.P.

When it was Smiths turn to speak he made sure to compliment his teammates, crediting them with making his job look easy.

It was just one of those games when pucks were hitting me and our guys were doing a good job to get rebounds over there and tie guys up after their shots, said Smith. It was just the rhythm of the game, it seemed like.

Doan, the only Coyote to make the voyage from Winnipeg, has finally won the elusive playoff-series that has eluded him for the past 15 years. Yotes head coach Dave Tippet felt sentimental for his captain when speaking with Sara McLellan of the Arizona Republic.

Its great to get a monkey off our back, said Tippet. To listen to Shane Doan after the game talk about how much this mean to him to push this thing along, you just recognize all the work that not just the players but organizational people put and its very gratifying.

Willson Contreras progressing, but still no timeline for return to Cubs

Willson Contreras progressing, but still no timeline for return to Cubs

Before the Cubs hosted the San Francisco Giants on Day 2 of American Legion Week, Willson Contreras was out in left field running and working out his injured right hamstring.

The All-Star catcher hit the injured list earlier this month after hitting a line drive to the gap against the Milwaukee Brewers. 

That was two-and-a-half weeks ago and the Cubs initially tabbed the Grade-2 hamstring strain as a roughly four-week timeline. But team president Theo Epstein said Wednesday Contreras is not nearing a rehab stint.

"He's in what our trainers are calling the aggressive strengthening phase of his rehab, which is building up the hamstring strength now that he's gotten through the initial injury," Epstein said. "Always what comes with that is the strength deficit that you have to really be mindful of building back up so that you don't risk reinjuring it when you get back to full baseball activities. 

"You're gonna see him on the field a lot more over the next few days and hopefully soon he'll be progressing to baseball activities. He's not on the cusp of starting a rehab assignment or anything like that. He hasn't really progressed to baseball activities yet, so that will be the next step."

The minor-league season wraps up in the first couple days of September, so Contreras won't have much of an opportunity to get game at-bats and innings at catcher if he isn't able to head on a rehab stint soon.

But the Cubs won't rush it with one of their most important players. Contreras was hitting .275 with 19 homers, 57 RBI and an .890 OPS in 87 games before the injury.

In his absence, the Cubs have been pretty well covered with Victor Caratini and Jonathan Lucroy splitting duties behind the dish.

Lucroy - acquired Aug. 8 after being released by the Los Angeles Angels - is hitting .333 with a .798 OPS in 7 games and has impressed with his work as a game-caller and veteran presence. Caratini continues to put up quality at-bats while building on his breakout campaign.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Cubs' triumphant return home

USA Today

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Cubs' triumphant return home

Luke Stuckmeyer and Fred Mitchell join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Doug Glanville joins the guys to discuss the Cubs' triumphant return home, Nicholas Castellanos and the importance of the starting rotation over the rest of the season.

11:00- Scott Podsednik drops by to talk about another dominant performance by Lucas Giolito. Could the Sox contend next season after taking a series from another division leader?

17:30- Tony Andracki joins Kap from Wrigley Field with the latest on Ben Zobrist's return and if Brandon Morrow's shutdown will have any impact on the Cubs' bullpen.

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Sports Talk Live Podcast