Bulls

Toews returns as Blackhawks battle Kings

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Toews returns as Blackhawks battle Kings

Monday, Jan. 3, 2011
Posted: 1:04 p.m. Updated: 1:42 p.m.By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Tonight's game can be seen on Versus starting at 8:00 p.m.
LOS ANGELES Jonathan Toews started to feel better the day after his sustained his right shoulder injury in St. Louis. Now, six days later, hes ready to play again.

Toews will start tonight when the Blackhawks play the Los Angeles Kings. The captain said this morning that hes not rushing back at all and has been happy with his healing since Tuesday.

From the first day until today, we saw progress every day, Toews said. Theres always that side of things that you want to push it to get back as fast as you can but I can honestly say that I dont feel like theres any risk coming back tonight. It feels really good. I hit the ice a couple times and I dont think I lost much. Hopefully Ill pick up where I left off.

His return not only gives the team a healthy lineup again, but it could also provide the boost during this three-game losing streak.

Its one of those big pieces youre missing in the lineup, said right wing Marian Hossa. Hes a leader so its a huge confidence boost when you get a player like that in the lineup. Everyones looking forward to having the captain back. But we cant expect him to win the game by himself. Everybody has to be better.

One area where Toews helps the Blackhawks immediately is in the faceoff circle. The team has struggled there and will welcome back his winning percentage of 59.6 is fifth best in the NHL.

Obviously hes good on faceoffs, and play all starts with winning the faceoff, getting the puck instead of us losing the draw and chasing right off the bat, defenseman Duncan Keith said. Obviously hes great at controlling the puck, so its great to have him back in the lineup.

Toews didnt foresee his injury hampering his faceoffs.

Most of that is mentality, he said. If you can find a way to forget about it, it shouldnt be a big deal. Itll be about being prepared tonight and hopefully getting off to a good start for faceoffs. We didnt do that well last night so as a team we want to do better tonight.

Corey Crawford will get his second consecutive start tonight in goal.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

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USA TODAY

Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

In a five-game span Wendell Carter Jr. saw preseason action against Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and Myles Turner. The 19-year-old rookie had his share of expected ups and downs but performed well enough that Fred Hoiberg officially announced him a starter for the team’s season opener tomorrow night.

His reward for all that hard work? A matchup against All-Pro center Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

It’ll be an eye-opening experience for the Duke product, who just a year ago was readying himself for his first season of college basketball and a season-opening matchup against Elon. It’s safe to assume Embiid will pose a few more problems than did Phoenix center Tyler Seibring.

“Joel Embiid was one of my role models growing up,” Embiid said before practice Wednesday. “He was someone I always wanted to pattern my game after. Just to go up against him is a remarkable feeling. He’s a very physical player. He’s a very talented player. I’m going to be able to stack up and see what all I need to work on to last in this league.”

While it’s no easy task against a talent like Embiid, who was named All-NBA Second Team last season, Carter’s most important job will be staying out of foul trouble. Carter piggy-backed an impressive Summer League with a preseason that included averages of 7.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in 21.1 minutes. But those numbers also included 7.7 fouls per 48 minutes. He racked up 17 fouls in five games, and had at least three in each.

Embiid only went to the line five times in Tuesday’s season-opening loss to the Celtics, but that was primarily against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Al Horford. Embiid won’t face as much resistance against Carter, putting the pressure on the rookie to stay on the floor.

“He’s going to have to navigate that without using his hands,” Fred Hoiberg said. “We have to be all five aware. It’s just not a one-man problem with Embiid. We have to have great awareness of him and try and mix up coverages and hopefully make him take tough shots, knowing that he’s going to hit some of those. You just can’t get deflated when he does.’’

The decision was a mere formality – Bobby Portis will start at power forward – after the frontcourt combination played considerably better in the Bulls’ final two preseason games. Though Jabari Parker was initially slotted in at power forward following Lauri Markkanen’s elbow sprain, Portis’ impressive preseason forced Hoiberg’s hand. Portis averaged 17.0 points and 5.8 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field in just 22.4 minutes.

“It’s all about combinations out there and we felt like Bobby gave us a great start with the way he was playing,” Hoiberg said. “And then we kind of changed things up with that second unit and put the ball in Jabari’s hands, so it was more that in trying to get guys out there with the right combinations.”

Lopez may have an expanded role if Carter gets into foul trouble early, while Parker will be the facilitator on a second unit that doesn’t have much in the way of a point guard. It’s anyone’s guess as to how the frontcourt will play out once Markkanen returns in roughly a month; if Portis and Carter continue playing well, Hoiberg could opt to keep them together on the second unit and put Lopez back in the starting lineup.

But for at least Opening Night – the Bulls also get Andre Drummond and the Pistons on Saturday – it’ll be the seventh overall pick getting his NBA feet wet with a matchup against arguably the best center in basketball. But’s it a role he’s earned, and on a Bulls defense looking for any sort of improvement, Carter is the player who can anchor it.

“His defense is always going to be important for us. He’s the guy that’s the anchor in that starting unit at the rim,” Hoiberg said, “and he’s done a really solid job of making perimeter guys taking contested shots when he gets switched off, or staying vertical at the rim and trying to make a big finish over the top of him, so yeah, again it’s a great challenge, great opportunity for Wendell.”

Matt Nagy gives update on the state of Khalil Mack's ankle

Matt Nagy gives update on the state of Khalil Mack's ankle

The Bears have seemingly dodged a bullet, for now. 

Following Tuesday's announcement that Khalil Mack would undergo further tests on the right ankle injury he sustained during Sunday's loss, Bears head coach had more optimistic news on Wednesday:

It could obviously get a lot worse than a day-to-day diagnosis, though not practicing on Wednesday might raise some eyebrows. 

It sounds like Mack is expected to be a go for Sunday's matchup with the Patriots, though as the Bears saw with the Dolphins' QB situation last week, things can change in a heartbeat.