CSN to air Blackhawks, Red Wings Winter Classic game tonight

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CSN to air Blackhawks, Red Wings Winter Classic game tonight

Comcast SportsNet will be re-airing Blackhawks Classics until the NHL lockout comes to an end. Tune in tonight at 7:00 p.m. to catch the 2009 Winter Classic game between the Blackhawks and Red Wings at Wrigley Field.

It was an early afternoon at Wrigley and over 40,000 fans packed the Friendly Confines, but this time, the seats were filled in the dead of winter and the outfield was covered with a thick sheet of ice. For the first time in its history, Wrigley Field was home to an outdoor skating rink as the Blackhawks faced off against the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings in the 2009 NHL Winter Classic.

What to watch for

Cubs and Blackhawks legends came together for the historical event as Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg joined Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Denis Savard at the game to perform their own version of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", changing a few words to make the song more hockey-friendly.

The tune of course came after the first memorable performances of the night, which included Jim Cornelison and Scott Newlands performing the Star-Spangled Banner and O Canada.

Kris Versteeg, Martin Havlat, Ben Eager and Duncan Keith all found the back of the net during the outdoor game, but a strong run from the Red Wingers in the second and third periods resulted in 6-4 victory for Detroit.

Remembering the 2008-09 season
Martin Havlat led the Blackhawks with 77 points.Jonathan Toews had 34 goals, still a career-high.Patrick Sharp had scored more than 30 goals in a season three times in his NHL career.Kris Versteeg was named to the 2008-09 NHL All-Rookie Team.Dave Bolland recorded 47 points, still a career-high.
The Blackhawks had a franchise-record 9-game winning streak in December, 2008.The Blackhawks' 2009 playoff appearance was their first since 2002.
Join in on the conversation during tonight's game by using HawksClassics on Twitter.

Relentless Cubs offense knocks out Gerrit Cole in win over Pirates

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Relentless Cubs offense knocks out Gerrit Cole in win over Pirates

PITTSBURGH — Relentless is the word the Cubs keep using to describe a lineup that knocked out Gerrit Cole on Monday night with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates already trailing by two runs at PNC Park.

Relentless could also be a label for Theo Epstein’s front office, even after spending almost $290 million on free agents and even with an 18-6 record that’s the best in baseball following a 7-2 win over the Pirates.

Because the Cubs want nothing to do with the randomness of another one-game playoff and can’t take anything for granted with 85 percent of the schedule still remaining.

Not that Epstein needed a reminder, but the president of baseball operations flashed back to last year’s National League wild-card game when he flew into Pittsburgh, checked into the team’s downtown hotel across the Roberto Clemente Bridge and went running along the Allegheny River.

From his hotel room, Epstein could sort of see where Kyle Schwarber’s two-run homer off Cole flew out of PNC Park last October. Even with Schwarber recovering from season-ending knee surgery, the Cubs still roughed up Cole for six runs.

“We’ve played really well,” Epstein said, “but I don’t think we’ve completely locked in yet or clicked in all facets of the game. Our pitching staff’s really been carrying us. It’s been the most consistent part of our team yet. As it warms up here, I think the bats will get going and they’ll probably carry us for a while.

“But as far as needs that we might have, or ways that we can get better, we’re always assessing that. I think there’s lots of different ways we could potentially improve the club before the end of the season.”

The Cubs will watch Tim Lincecum’s upcoming showcase in Arizona because they always check in on potential impact players at that level. Lincecum — a two-time Cy Young Award winner who helped the San Francisco Giants win three World Series titles — is making a comeback after hip surgery.

While the Cubs should have big-picture concerns about their rotation and a farm system that hasn’t developed the arms yet, Jason Hammel is making his own comeback. Hammel (4-0, 1.24 ERA) gave up two runs across five innings before four relievers combined to shut down the Pirates (15-11) the rest of the night.

After beating up on the division’s have-nots and going 8-1 against the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs should have a better idea of where they stand after Joe Maddon’s “Minimalist Zany” road trip to Pittsburgh and a four-game series against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field.

“There’s always the threat of somehow playing to the level of your competition in a negative way,” Maddon said. “I’m not denigrating any team that we’ve played to this point. That is not my point. But if you play teams with less-than (.500) records and maybe they’re not playing as well, you don’t turn that dimmer switch up to the full velocity. But when you’re playing really good teams, I think that naturally brings out the best in you.”

Jake Arrieta is the wild card in budding Cubs-Pirates rivalry

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Jake Arrieta is the wild card in budding Cubs-Pirates rivalry

PITTSBURGH — Jake Arrieta felt so locked in, so prepared for the biggest start of his life that he trolled the Pittsburgh Pirates on Twitter, telling their fans that the blackout atmosphere at PNC Park wouldn’t matter.

The Cubs will never forget that epic performance during last year’s National League wild-card game, how Arrieta walked the walk in a complete-game shutout. His young son, Cooper, even helped pour champagne into his mouth during that wild postgame celebration, creating another memorable snapshot.

If Arrieta is going to become a true villain in Pittsburgh — and the Cubs and Pirates are going to reach another boiling point and turn this into a great rivalry — then it probably won’t happen during the first week of May while the Penguins are still alive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But Arrieta’s starts have already become must-see TV, and the Pirates will get another up-close look on Tuesday night at this beautiful waterfront ballpark.

"Their fans are good," Arrieta said. "They’re passionate about their team and their guys, so it’s something that I enjoy. I don’t expect them to be my biggest fan — or a fan of me at all — but that’s the nature of fans and the fans that really support their team.

"That’s the whole point of social media — to interact. Sometimes it’s well received. Sometimes it’s not. But that was the intention there — to fire people up — and I think that’s exactly what I did."

Arrieta looked a little drained during the next two rounds of the playoffs, beating the St. Louis Cardinals (while seeming to lose his air of invincibility) before the New York Mets swept the Cubs out of the NLCS.

There hasn’t been any sort of hangover for Arrieta, the first NL Pitcher of the Month for three consecutive months after a dominant April that saw him go 5-0 with a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds and only two runs allowed across 36 innings.

As manager Joe Maddon likes to say, the reigning Cy Young Award winner is embracing the target.

"When you’re at the top of your game, when you’re one of the teams to beat, it’s just something that comes with the territory," Arrieta said.

Arrieta’s meticulous routine and laser focus mean he doesn’t experience a flood of special memories as soon as he sees the bridges, the black and gold and the Pittsburgh skyline. Or at least he won’t admit that now.

"Well, when you bring it up, yeah," Arrieta said. "That was a neat experience, something that was huge for us as a team and for the organization. But it was short-lived.

"We moved on and had to play the Cardinals and the Mets and our season was cut a little bit short. But we’re in a better spot now this early in the season. We like where we are."

That would be in first place in the Central, with the best record in the league and no interest in dealing with the coin-flip nature of the wild card.

"When you play 162, and then you have to fight it out in one game to move on or go home, it’s a situation that nobody really wants to be in," Arrieta said. "The goal is obviously to win the division. And getting off to a hot start is the way you go about doing that. We’re where we intended to be at this point in the season."

Antrel Rolle blames Bears practice field for knee injury

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Antrel Rolle blames Bears practice field for knee injury

Antrel Rolle has been around the NFL long enough to know this is sometimes how it goes.

The Bears released the 33-year-old Rolle one day after selecting three defensive backs in the 2016 NFL Draft. Rolle played just seven games in the first season of his three-year deal, while dealing with ankle and knee injuries.

He joined 670 The Score on Monday to discuss a number of topics surrounding his release. Among his comments, Rolle blamed the playing surface at Halas Hall, the Bears' practice facility, for the knee injury that ultimately ended his season.

Rolle, still dealing with an injured ankle that had limited him early in the season, injured the knee on the final play of practice on the Friday before the Bears' game against the Denver Broncos.

As he explains:

"I was pretty much shuffling...and I tried to change direction and I slipped on the surface, and because of my ankle and because of the tape the only thing that was able to give was my knee. So my knee had to take a lot of the force and the impact, and even the doctor said it was very unsual to find a tear that I had with a non-contact injury. But it was because of all the pressure and force on my knee because my ankle couldn't really give.

"I think the surface had a whole lot to do with it. It happens.

"The facilities are good in Chicago. The fields are just not as good. I don't know the reason behind it. I don't know how the maintenance and upkeep works in Chicago. But it's real hard to maintain and just be stable under those conditions. But I'm sure they'll try to work and fix it. I always knew Soldier Field (playing surface) was bad. I just never knew that the facitlities were just as bad."

Rolle plans on playing in his 12th NFL season, and believe he's capable of much more than he showed in his limited time with the Bears. Now a free agent, Rolle said he has a chip on his shoulder and is hoping whichever team he signs with plays the Bears in 2016.

"I know who I am as a player. I know who I still am as a player and what I can contribute. It's just unfortunate that it won't be (in Chicago).

"It's all good. I'll find a way and I'll make the best of it. And whatever team i play (for), I hope chicago's on the schedule."