49ers: Smith out, Kaepernick in

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49ers: Smith out, Kaepernick in

The Bears' chances to win tonight seem to have improved with word that Alex Smith could not get the final thumbs-up from neurologists to start tonight's matchup at Candlestick Park as he recovers from a concussion he sustained eight days ago.

So as this becomes the Campbell-Kaepernick quarterback matchup as Jay Cutler also recuperates from the same injury suffered last Sunday, the Bears' defense faces a younger, less patient signal-caller on the other side of the ball. While Colin Kaepernick has yet to throw an interception in 26 attempts this season, he figures to get rattled a little more than Smith, who's thrown just 10 picks since the start of the 2011 season.

Matter of fact, Smith had a stretch of 249 attempts without a pick spanning from last Nov. 24, 2011-Sept. 23. Kaepernick, on the other hand, is the team's third-leading rusher (177 yards on 21 attempts). While the only quarterback close to Kaepernick's tuck-it-and-run style the defense has faced this season is Cam Newton (who really didn't in the Bears' one-point win), safe to say they'll take that over the gradual maturity Smith has shown over the past two seasons.

As a team, San Francisco's turned the ball over just nine times since Dec. 1, something the Bears and their NFL-leading 30 takeaways need to disrupt. If they accomplish that, the bigger question becomes if the struggling offense can make it pay off behind Jason Campbell. If it's successful in doing so, and consistently against the kind of defense that stacks up against the Bears, rushing Cutler's return becomes less important and blogs and talk shows will begin an entirely new debate.

But first things first: Campbell, Mike Tice, and the rest of the offense have to outsmart and outbattle an outstanding unit led by a scary linebacking corps (Aldon Smith's 9 12 sacks rank second in the NFC). The Niners' defense doesn't seem to let its offense's turnovers rattle it either, allowing just 16 points the nine times they have coughed the ball up. But the Vikings, Giants and Rams have figured out enough ways to beat (or tie) them. Let's see if these Bears can.

Since the win there in that glorious 1985 season, the Bears have made seven trips to San Francisco and been outscored 239-42. They'll be happy to get out of there one point better tonight, and keep their one game lead in the division over Green Bay.

Tune into Comcast SportsNet at 4:30 p.m. to preview the game live on "United Bears Recap". Then, flip over to us immediately after the Bears-49ers game goes final for "Chevy Dealers' Bears Postgame Live." I'll be joined by Dan Jiggetts, Jim Miller and Hunter Hillenmeyer to break down the game for 90 minutes, take you live to postgame press conferences and locker room interviews with Kip Lewis, more analysis from John Mullin and share your reaction via Twitter using hashtag BearsTalk

Fast Break Morning Update: Jonathan Toews powers Blackhawks past Canucks

Fast Break Morning Update: Jonathan Toews powers Blackhawks past Canucks

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.