MVP favorite might be out for a month

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MVP favorite might be out for a month

From Comcast SportsNet
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Reds first baseman Joey Votto will have surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, leaving the NL Central leaders without their best hitter for the next three to four weeks. The 2010 National League MVP hurt the knee while sliding into third base June 29 in San Francisco, but has continued playing. Votto started for the NL in the All-Star game last Tuesday. A medical exam Monday night detected the tear and Votto will have arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday. General manager Walt Jocketty said Votto didn't have an MRI earlier because the first baseman didn't think he needed one. "He didn't request it until then," Jocketty said. "He said it wasn't a problem until the last couple of days." Votto decided to have the surgery. Jocketty said it's a simple procedure that takes only 20 to 30 minutes. "It is in my best interest and in the best interest of the team to do it now so that I can be healthy during the last two months of the pennant race," Votto said in a statement. Votto is batting .342 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs. He leads the NL in doubles, walks, on-base percentage and extra-base hits. "We'll see what we can do internally, initially," Jocketty said. "But it's going to be difficult to replace Joey Votto." He went hitless in his first two games back from the All-Star game then had a single and an RBI double during a 4-2 win over St. Louis on Sunday night that moved the Reds into sole possession of first place in the NL Central. The Reds didn't immediately make a move to replace him on the roster. Cincinnati has been in first place for 46 days because of its pitching and the NL's top defense. The Reds have used only five starters, a modern franchise record this deep into the season, and their bullpen is the best in the league. The offense has struggled, ranking in the middle of the league, and the loss of Votto costs the team its most consistent hitter. Votto was named MVP after the Reds' run to the NL Central title in 2010, but Cincinnati got swept by Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. He received a 10-year contract extension before the start of this season that added 225 million to his deal. Now, the Reds will find out just how much he means to the franchise. They lost their first game without him, 5-3 to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night. "He's an MVP, a Gold Glover. What more can you ask in a guy?" said Todd Frazier, who filled in at first base. "Injuries are huge in baseball. He's got that presence. Whenever he is out there, he can do damage." Reds starter Bronson Arroyo saw Votto shortly before the game and got the bad news directly. "He looked funny," said Arroyo, who lasted only three innings. "I said, Are you playing?' He said, No, I need surgery.' At this time of year, if we can keep pressure on the other teams in our division and stay in the race -- if we can weather the storm -- he could give us a lift when he comes back." Instead of having a mainstay at first base and the No. 3 spot in the order, manager Dusty Baker will have to get creative. There's no obvious replacement on the roster or in the minors. Baker's first inclination was to have Frazier, who is Scott Rolen's backup at third base, play more at first. "That's a good possibility," Baker said. "He'll play some third, some first. (Miguel Cairo) will play some first. He's an outstanding first baseman. We'll mix and match depending on offensive and defensive matchups." The challenge is to stay in contention until he gets back. "We've got the guys who can do it," right fielder Jay Bruce said. "The pressure's on, but we've got to step up. I'm confident that we have those guys on the team. "Look at the Dodgers. They lost Matt Kemp, but they weathered the storm. It's early enough that we can weather the storm."

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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.

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