Latest on Hines Ward's future in Pittsburgh

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Latest on Hines Ward's future in Pittsburgh

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't ready to part ways with Hines Ward just yet. General manager Kevin Colbert said Monday the team has had "internal discussions" on what to do with the franchise's all-time leading receiver, but no decision has been made. NFL.com reported last week the Steelers were planning to release the 35-year-old Ward, who took on a diminished role last season behind Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Ward posted on his Facebook page Saturday that he's willing to restructure his contract in hopes of finishing his career with Pittsburgh. Ward has two years remaining on his current deal at a cost of about 4 million a season. The 14-year veteran became the eighth player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career receptions last season. Cornerback Ike Taylor and linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley have agreed to restructure their contracts in hopes of getting under the salary cap. Colbert said the team is in the middle of making free agent evaluations and won't make any move on Ward until that process is complete. "That will give us an idea about what else is out there, where we stand with restructuring contracts and what we will have to do as far as possibly terminating people, both immediately and after the fact if we decide we want to add some players (in free agency)," Colbert said. Ward is coming off a season in which he finished with 46 receptions for 381 yards and two touchdowns, his lowest totals in each category since he was a rookie in 1998. The 2006 Super Bowl MVP -- who also won "Dancing With the Stars" last spring -- is one of only two receivers in league history to reach 1,000 receptions and win at least two Super Bowls. Colbert also said Monday injured running back Rashard Mendenhall likely will start the 2012 season on the physically unable to perform list while he continues to rehab the torn ACL in his right knee from the regular-season finale against Cleveland.

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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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