Fire travel to San Jose on Saturday

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Fire travel to San Jose on Saturday

The Fire has made three significant announcements since its 1-0 loss to Englands Aston Villa in Saturday nights international friendly at Toyota Park. None figure to have an effect on the next match, a road battle with the high-flying San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
Most noteworthy of the latest developments is the club's scheduling of a second such international match, which may well be a more popular attraction than the first. The Fire announced Wednesday that four-time Mexican first division champion Club Santos Laguna will come to Bridgeview on Sept. 8.
While Aston Villa was on the rebound from an off-season in the English Premier League, Santos Laguna is riding high in Mexico. The club beat Monterrey 3-2 on aggregate to take its league tournament and also placed second in the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League.
Santos Laguna's roster features Oswaldo Sanchez, the veteran goalkeeper for Mexico's national team, and striker Hercules Gomez, who has done time with the U.S. nationals. Gomez also played for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Colorado Rapids and Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City) in Major League Soccer.
Last season the Fire's second friendly was against the immensely popular Guadalajara Chivas, the Mexican side winning 1-0 in a spirited match.
On the pitch the Fire welcomed Dutch forward Sherjill MacDonald. A 10-year veteran with teams in Belgium, the Netherlands and England, MacDonald has long been reported heading to the Fire. His last club was Beerschot AC of Belgium, where he had 15 goals in 82 matches. During his long career in Europe the 27-year old MacDonald scored 47 goals in 217 matches.
"We have followed Sherjill's career over the course of the last year, and he adds to our attacking options," said Javier Leon, president of soccer operations for the Fire. "He's a professional on the field and in the locker room."
MacDonald will occupy a Designated Player spot with the Fire. The last to hold that slot was Uruguayan forward Federico Puppo. He was loaned to Defensor Sporting Club of the Uruguayan league to set the stage for MacDonalds arrival.
Designated Player spots are usually reserved for high-profiles players. The Fire's previous DPs were Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who made a big contribution for parts of three seasons, and Nery Castillo and Freddy Ljungberg, who did not.
Puppo didn't, either. He played in 12 matches across MLS and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competitions, starting only two. He had a goal and an assist and was more recently hampered by an ankle injury. It's doubtful MacDonald will make an immediate impact, either. He needs time to improve his fitness before hell likely play in an MLS match.
The Fire hasn't given up on the 25-year old Puppo, who joined the club on Jan. 11 after playing for another Uruguayan side, Danubio FC.
"This loan is an opportunity to provide Federico with more consistent playing time," said Fire coach Frank Klopas. "We look forward to keeping a close eye on his progress while he's playing in Montevideo."
The Fire (9-7-4) played its last MLS match on July 18, a 1-0 road loss to the New York Red Bulls, and will resume league play against powerhouse San Jose (13-5-4). The Fire will be without a key player. Midfielder Marco Pappa will serve a one-game suspension for yellow card point accumulations.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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