Impressive record set by the Detroit Red Wings

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Impressive record set by the Detroit Red Wings

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Red-and-white clad fans haven't seen the Detroit Red Wings lose at home in more than three months. The NHL has never seen such success at home in one season. The Red Wings beat the Dallas Stars 3-1 on Tuesday night for their 21st straight win in Detroit -- breaking the single-season mark of 20 set by Boston in the 1929-30 season and matched by Philadelphia in 1976. During the final minute of the latest home win, the crowd showered the Red Wings with a standing ovation -- and chanted, "21! 21!" "In the end when they were really cheering, before and after the buzzer went, it was a pretty cool feeling," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. Zetterberg and Brad Stuart scored midway through the first period and Detroit went on to surpass the long-standing record. After time expired, the Red Wings went to goaltender Joey MacDonald and then skated toward center ice to thank their passionate patrons by raising their sticks. Detroit extended the streak with three wins in shootouts, which became a part of the league in 2005 after the lockout and has led some to downplay the significance of this record. In the past, the Red Wings would've had to settle for ties and an unbeaten streak instead of a winning run. "There's really no way to combat that argument," Stuart said. "But still, it's an incredible accomplishment regardless of what you're going to compare it to." Since the shootout eliminated ties, the longest previous home winning streak was 14 by Boston during the 2008-09 season. Detroit's run began after a loss to Calgary on Nov. 3. Adam Burish, who scored for Dallas, said what the Red Wings have done isn't watered down by the fact they have chances to win games that used to end in ties. "I think it's harder than it was in the 70s, just because of the parity," Burish said. "There are no games where you can just show up and think you're going to win." Detroit has an NHL-high 39 wins and 80 points, but the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers are just a point behind and have played three fewer games. "Anytime you're in a race like we are, you need the points," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. The resurgent St. Louis Blues, steady Nashville Predators and talented Chicago Blackhawks won't make it easy for the Red Wings to win the Central Division, and top seeding in the West will likely be closely contested with the defending conference champion Vancouver Canucks. That is why the Red Wings have been more focused on the standings than the streak. "It's something we're going to cherish, but we've talked about getting more points to stay where we are in the standings," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. MacDonald made 20 saves, filling in again for the injured Jimmy Howard, and was 32.8 seconds away from his third NHL shutout. Kari Lehtonen stopped 34 shots for the Stars. The Red Wings' next two games are at home -- Friday against Nashville, and Sunday when they host San Jose. That will give them a chance to break another record by the Bruins. Boston won 22 straight home games, spanning two seasons. The Bruins closed the 1929-30 season with 20 victories at home and then won its first two in Boston the following season. "That's something I didn't know of, but we'll refocus again and go to work again for Friday," Lidstrom said. The NBA's longest home winning streak in a season is 37, set by Chicago during the 1995-96 season. The 1978 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1988 Boston Red Sox both won 24 straight at home for baseball's longest single-season, home-winning streaks since 1919. The Miami Dolphins won 27 straight at home from 1971-74 for the NFL mark. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said before Tuesday's game that the team wouldn't make room for a banner in Joe Louis Arena's crowded rafters if a record was set against Dallas. Holland said the club can hoist four banners each season for winning the Stanley Cup, the Presidents' Trophy, and Western Conference and Central Division titles. Detroit hopes it doesn't follow the path of the last two teams to win 20 straight at home. The Bruins eight-plus decades ago and the Flyers nearly 36 years ago were defending Stanley Cup champions and went on to lose in the finals. Detroit essentially finished off Dallas in the first half of the opening period. "We started on time," Babcock said. "I actually thought their goaltender was really good. Without him it could have been worse. "If you can play with the lead, you're always a better team." Zetterberg scored off his own rebound on the power play 7:57 in, and Stuart's wrist shot sliced through traffic from the top of the right circle 1:18 later to make it 2-0. "We made it real hard on ourselves," Burish said. "They're too good to have to chase." After the Red Wings held onto the lead rather comfortably, Jiri Hudler slipped behind the Stars on a shift change and scored with 4:49 left in the game to give Detroit a three-goal lead. NOTES: The Red Wings are shooting for Howard to return on Sunday. Howard has missed six games with a broken right index finger. ... Dallas, which is not among the top eight teams in the West, has lost three straight after winning four of six.

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras looks ready for prime time

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras looks ready for prime time

SAN DIEGO – Within 24 hours at Petco Park, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras handled the wild movement of Jake Arrieta’s pitches and framed the edges of the strike zone for Kyle Hendricks, showing the dexterity to handle a playoff rotation.

Contreras looked ready for prime time on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, helping shut down the San Diego Padres and complete a three-game sweep where two National League Cy Young Award candidates found a rhythm while throwing to a rookie catcher.

“Everything’s a lot easier,” Contreras said after a 6-3 victory. “I’m way more comfortable right now, because my first week everything was speeding up on me. But now I’m able to slow down the game and do my job.” 

The day after Arrieta fell one inning short of a two-hit, complete-game shutout, Hendricks credited Contreras for calling more curveballs and getting him through a stretch where the Padres put the leadoff man on base in each of the first four innings. 

“From the get-go, I wasn’t shaking him off,” Hendricks said. “We’ve been rolling for the last five, six starts, at least. It’s been easy.” 

Contreras has now caught Arrieta twice, and got one-start exposure to Jon Lester, while developing chemistry with Hendricks, John Lackey and Jason Hammel, which means veteran catcher Miguel Montero might not have a spot on the postseason roster if this continues.

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Contreras is a dynamic presence, launching his eighth home run on Wednesday afternoon and keeping the Padres stationary after Tuesday night’s laser throw to pick off a runner at third base. 

“I was waiting for somebody to run,” Contreras said. “But they didn’t run, so I’ll have to save it for another game.”

The Cubs are nearing the point where a 24-year-old player who didn’t make his big-league debut until June 17 could be behind the plate for the biggest games in franchise history.

“In this clubhouse, we are like a family,” Contreras said. “Once you get here, you start feeling comfortable the first day. You don’t even know that you are a rookie who just came up.”

Bears: One-time starter Christian Jones willing to forge a new role in changing D

Bears: One-time starter Christian Jones willing to forge a new role in changing D

What’s wrong with this picture? Or maybe, what’s right?

Over the past two years, no Bear made more tackles than Christian Jones’ 196 – a total accomplished in spite of being shunted around in a death-spiraling 4-3 scheme under the Marc Trestman staff in 2014 and then moved inside as part of the John Fox/Vic Fangio 3-4 last season.

An undrafted free agent picked up by the Phil Emery regime out of Florida State, Jones also was third in special-teams tackles (11) in 2014 and contributed four last season along with four pass breakups and four quarterback pressures.

Then this offseason Jones could only watch as the Bears made replacing him (and Shea McClellin) a priority, signing inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. And suddenly Jones finds himself in a battle for a roster spot. He even saw his number (59) taken to one of the new guys (Trevathan).

It is not often that teams put replacing one of their leading tacklers high on their offseason to-do lists. But there it was.

“You can’t really get surprised,” said Jones, still among the most upbeat players to be found anywhere on the roster. “It’s the NFL, and they brought in two good players, and that’s going to help the team, the defense. I was all in for that.

“So it’s taking my role and doing the best I can with that.”

The trouble is, that “role” is fluid.

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Coaches came to Jones early in the offseason and said they were moving him back to the outside. Fine. He was comfortable there before. Except that since the start of training camp, Jones has been something of a “Where’s Waldo?” character – inside, outside, try finding him.

If there’s an irony, it lies in the fact that not finding Jones a clear role sets him up as a piece of roster versatility that teams crave.

“We went and signed two inside linebackers in free agency and moved him to outside, and now we’ve kind of moved him back inside, so he’s kind of a hybrid,” said coach John Fox. “And sometimes you have to be that.

“There’s the old adage, ‘The more you can do… ,’ and there are a lot of those hybrid guys in different spots. It gives him an advantage, too, as far as offensive recognition.”

Fox and the Bears staff have placed a premium on attitude as well, and Jones has continued to be a factor on special teams, something not every three-year veteran and former starter embraces.

Jones thinks clearly: “You want to have a job,” he said, laughing. “That’s the main thing.”

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The bumping around between positions has not set Jones’ development back. Indeed, “I think it’s been somewhat smooth, and playing both, I’m getting a sense of the defense,” Jones said. “That helps a lot. It’s a good thing to know both spots because you never know with injuries, so in the long run it helps me and helps the team.”

When Jones was tasked with calling defensive signals in McClellin’s absence last season, it did not go overly well. Jones was benched by Fangio in Week 15 for inconsistency.

Indications are that something has changed. “I think there is a maturity difference, in my opinion,” Fox said.

White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez felt good in bullpen session

White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez felt good in bullpen session

If all continues to go well, Miguel Gonzalez could pitch in a rehab start as soon as Friday.

On the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin, the White Sox starter said he felt good during a second bullpen session on Wednesday.

Gonzalez, who is 2-6 with a 4.05 ERA in 19 games (18 starts), threw 30 pitches. He previously threw a bullpen session on Friday and felt some discomfort the following day. But Gonzalez said he has made progress since he received treatment on Saturday.

“A lot better,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t feel anything while I was throwing my bullpen, which is great. I’m happy with the results today and come back tomorrow and we’ll see.”

Gonzalez left an Aug. 11 start at Kansas City in the bottom of the second inning. Though he wasn’t yet sure if he’d head out on a rehab assignment, Gonzalez said he was on the third day of a five-day schedule in which he was supposed to start. But it’s also possible the White Sox could have Gonzalez first throw a simulated game.

“We're going to have him go back out there again and do a little bit more, that looks more like starting in a game where he's going to throw for a little while, sit down, get back up,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Simulate some innings and hopefully after he does that a couple time he can go out for a rehab assignment.”