Blackhawks ready to meet Sharks, ex-mate Niemi

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Blackhawks ready to meet Sharks, ex-mate Niemi

Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010
Updated 2:57 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

SAN JOSE, Calif. Antti Niemi said Monday he wanted to play against the Chicago Blackhawks. Now hell get his chance.

Niemi will be the San Jose starter when the Sharks host the Blackhawks here tonight. For Niemi, its not so much besting the old team as it is just getting the Sharks back on track.

Im not trying not to think about the game too much like its too special, he said following morning skate. Its another game and we need to get wins.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan talked of when Antero Nittymaki got the start against his former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, on Nov. 6. He liked Nittymakis response, as well as the Sharks, in that 5-2 victory. He added that a solid outing tonight could be big for Niemi moving forward.

Thats the team to beat, theyre the ones with the rings on their fingers. So if he can have a solid game against a good team it can help, McLellan said. If it doesnt happen that way, hes been very resilient. The upsides much greater than the downside, and that went into the decision as well.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are ready to face their former netminder.

Im not going to tell you guys, but I think I know what Ill shoot, Patrick Kane said of his shot selection. But Kane knows facing Niemi wont be easy.

He has unbelievable lateral movement. If you move him side to side have to pick it up. Hes one of the best Ive ever seen with that. He did a lot of good things for us.

Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said he had dinner with Niemi on Tuesday night and joked that he tried to get into his head.

I know hes a competitive guy and always gives 100 percent out there, he said. Im sure hes going to have a good game tonight and were going to have to be on top of our game to score on him.

Briefly

Hjalmarsson said he doesnt think about what couldve been with the San Jose Sharks, who gave him a four-year, 14-million offer sheet in July.

I thought about that then, but once the season started, not really, he said.

Marty Turco will get the start tonight in net.

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

Horace Grant on current state of Bulls: 'No need to panic'

Horace Grant on current state of Bulls: 'No need to panic'

After the Bulls got off to a 3-0 start, it looked like this would be a team that might be able to give LeBron James and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers a run for their money in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls proceeded to lose their next three, tempering those optimistic expectations. What those first six games proved is that they're an inconsistent bunch, and it's been a microcosm of their season past the halfway mark.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Entering Thursday, the Bulls were slotted in as the No. 8 seed in the East with a 21-22 record through 43 games.

Former Bulls forward/center Horace Grant, who was named a special advisor to president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf last year, joined SportsTalk Live on Thursday to talk about the team's current state, and why Bulls fans shouldn't panic just yet.

Check out his comments in the video above.

See what else he had to say during his SportsTalk Live appearance and on In The Loop below:

Jimmy Butler acknowledges 'huge accomplishment' but stays nonchalant about All-Star starter nod

Jimmy Butler acknowledges 'huge accomplishment' but stays nonchalant about All-Star starter nod

ATLANTA — Jimmy Butler insisted being a starter in the All-Star Game means next to nothing, but it seems to go against his never-ending battle for credibility and validation as a legit superstar.

Moments after it was revealed he would be an All-Star starter for the first time and make his third overall trip to All-Star weekend, he sang the same nonchalant tune.

"It hasn't changed at all," Butler said on a conference call Thursday evening. "Obviously, it's a huge accomplishment and honor to be named a starter. But it's All-Star weekend. There are going to be a lot of good players there. I guess it's just another name thrown in with some decent players."

The NBA's format for selecting the All-Star starters changed this season, with fans no longer being the sole group that gets to vote for starters. If it was still a fans-only vote, Philadelphia's Joel Embiid would've started in Butler's place.

But with the new formula that allows the media and the players to take part in the vote, the fan vote accounts for just 50 percent of the formula. So Butler joined Cleveland's LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, Milwaukee's Giannis Antekounmpo and Toronto's DeMar DeRozan in the starting five for the Eastern Conference.

Butler's is averaging 24.8 points with 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists, career-highs across the board, and had he not been selected as a starter, the Bulls' 20-21 record would not have prevented coaches from selecting him as a reserve as they had the last two seasons.

[SHOP BULLS: Get a Jimmy Butler jersey right here]

He won't be joined in the starting lineup by Dwyane Wade, who finished second in backcourt voting behind Irving, but cast his vote for his teammate anyway and hopes Wade will be selected as a reserve.

"Of course. He's been a huge part of what we're doing here, and I think he has played extremely well the first part of the season," Butler said. "He got my vote. I will tell you that."

Golden State's Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will start for the West, along with Houston's James Harden, San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard and New Orleans' Anthony Davis, a Chicago native.

The fun-filled and busy weekend in New Orleans begins Feb. 17, from the league events to the parties to the festivities and then finally the All-Star Game on Sunday night.

Butler likely views it as more of an accomplishment for his team of trainers and confidants then himself.

"It's fun, man. You get to know the other really good players in the league, and you get to know a little bit about them," Butler said. "And the experience that you get to be a part of, whether it be the Jordan party or taking your guys with you everywhere. That's the most fun part for me, my trainers, my brothers, everybody that's behind the scenes helping me gets to experience it too."