Football no longer the only sport on Thanksgiving

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Football no longer the only sport on Thanksgiving

From Comcast SportsNet NEW YORK (AP) -- The NHL is hoping to turn Thanksgiving weekend into a hockey holiday as it did with New Year's Day. Looking to build on the success of the Winter Classic, which has quickly become a New Year's staple, the NHL announced on Wednesday a renewal of a multiyear partnership with Discover. The familiar credit card company will become the title sponsor of this year's "Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown," which takes place on the traditional shopping-heavy Friday after the holiday. The "Black Friday" matchup features the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings in an Original Six matchup on NBC. Discover and the NHL will also debut a co-sponsored float during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC as part of promotion for the game. "We are looking to build an entirely new platform around Thanksgiving and have it include not only a game broadcast but something more," said David Lehanski, the NHL's group vice president of integrated sales. "That (parade) is chock full of the most iconic brands. To be a part of that for hockey is great." Thanksgiving belongs to the NFL -- in the sports world -- much in the way college football has owned New Year's Day for generations. The 2012 Winter Classic, featuring the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers, was bumped to Jan. 2 along with the bowl games because the NFL is playing a regular schedule the day before. The NHL isn't taking on the NFL on Thanksgiving, either, but the league and Discover are aiming to give hockey fans an appetizer with the parade, heading into the featured Friday game. "This was one of those ideas that had natural synergy," said Jennifer Murillo, the vice president of brand communications for Discover. "The whole idea came together through the partnership. "We know our card members are passionate hockey fans. As the idea materialized to create a new nationally televised game during Thanksgiving weekend, this was a natural extension for us." The Thanksgiving Friday game begins NBC's coverage of the NHL for this season. It is the league's earliest start date on network TV since NBC acquired hockey broadcast rights in 2005. An estimated 50 million viewers are expected to watch the parade on television. "We're proud to work with our partners at the NHL and participate in some of America's favorite holiday traditions, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and watching a great hockey matchup on NBC," Murillo said. The parade float, 36 feet long and by 20 feet wide and called "Frozen Fall Fun," will showcase the partnership between the NHL and Discover and include past NHL stars, a synthetic ice rink, a 12-foot tall turkey that serves as a hockey goal, and a colorful fall look. Grammy Award winner Cee-Lo Green will perform live on the float. "This is part of the overall strategy," Lehanski said. "The more events we can create, if they can be tied to holidays or high-level days when people are home watching television, if we can bring hockey to their faces, we're going to generate more fans." Discover will offer card members the chance to redeem their Cashback Bonus rewards for tickets to the upcoming Winter Classic in Philadelphia, and card members will also receive discounts to Shop.NHL.com, the NHL Powered by Reebok store in New York, and NHL GameCenter Live subscriptions. "Having a new ownership platform on a day that is synonymous with shopping was a natural fit to renew our partnership with Discover, but we wanted to make it even bigger," Lehanski said. Discover will remain the official card of the NHL, All-Star weekend, the Winter Classic, NHL awards, and the draft.

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.

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Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

The Cubs are preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson, hoping the talented, frequently injured pitcher can stay healthy and provide insurance for their rotation.

Anderson posted a telling message on his Twitter account on Monday night, hinting at what would be another offseason check mark for the defending World Series champs.

The physical for the agreement — first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and MLB Network — won't just be a formality as Anderson underwent back surgery last March and appeared in only four games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

But Anderson fits on paper as a left-hander who will turn only 29 on Feb. 1 and won't have to carry front-of-the-rotation responsibilities or feel Opening Day urgency on a team with five projected starters.

The Cubs had been willing to gamble around $6 million on Tyson Ross, who recently signed a similarly structured one-year deal with the Texas Rangers as he recovers from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

The calculus would essentially be the same with Anderson. The Cubs have to factor in last year's grueling playoff run into early November, this season's sky-high expectations, the organization's lack of high-end, upper-level pitching prospects and the uncertainty surrounding the 2018 rotation.

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Anderson finished sixth in the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year voting with the Oakland A's, but he's reached the 30-start mark only one other time and never accounted for 200 innings in a single season.

Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery in the middle of the 2011 season, and the injuries piled up from there, dealing with a strained right oblique, a stress fracture in his right foot and a broken left index finger.

Anderson had such a fragile reputation that he accepted the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers after a strong platform year in 2015 (10-9, 3.69 ERA). The Dodgers only got 11 1/3 innings out of Anderson, who didn't pitch during a playoff run that ended at Wrigley Field in the National League Championship Series.

The Cubs stayed exceptionally healthy while winning 200 games across the last two seasons and need to be prepared in case John Lackey sharply declines at the age of 38 or Mike Montgomery experiences growing pains while transitioning from the bullpen.

Whether or not Anderson is ultimately the answer, the Cubs will be looking to place a sixth starter into their plans.

"I don't know if a six-man rotation on a permanent basis is the wave of the future," team president Theo Epstein said earlier this winter. "But we certainly endorse it on a temporary basis as a nice way to pace guys for the whole season.

"We can get them some rest, whether you do it in April to preserve depth and ease guys into the season, especially after a deep October and November run. Or after the All-Star break in the summer to kind of get through the dog days and give guys a little bit of a breather as you ramp up for the stretch run.

"I think it would be tough to pull off all season long. But it's something that (could certainly work) in the right spot."