Pirri proving his talents in Rockford

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Pirri proving his talents in Rockford

As the lockout drags on, over 100 NHLers are playing in the American Hockey League, upping the pace and the standard of hockey expected to be played during each matchup.

Not only has IceHogs forward Brandon Pirri embraced the challenge, he's set the bar for what consistency and leadership should look like on the ice. With 13 points in 15 games played this season, he's leading the boards in Rockford, doubling his second-ranked teammate Martin St. Pierre in number of goals with a total of six.

As for the higher-caliber of players this season, Pirri hasn't felt the slightest bit intimidated, and he's proven that in his performance.

"The pace is higher, it's a little more open, but at the same time it's the same gritty league," Pirri told CSNChicago.com. "You have to battle for everything. Right now it's real tight, every game's close."

Playing alongside Blackhawks' Brandon Bollig, Andrew Shaw, Jimmy Hayes, Marcus Kruger, Ben Smith, and Nick Leddy, Pirri has spent this season demonstrating that he can not only keep up with the Chicago players in town, but also shine among them.

Stan Bowman, Joel Quenneville and other members of the Blackhawks brass have been in attendance at the BMO Harris Center in Rockford for nearly every home game, scouting the team and preparing for NHL season to return.

"You see them at the rink, but at the same time you have to worry about yourself and stay focused on the game, because if you worry about that stuff then you're not going to play your game," Pirri said.

Having the big dogs watching closely from the press box may not be directly affecting Pirri's style of play, but it sure will help his outcome if he keeps up these numbers as the NHL teams wait to return to the ice.

In the meantime, he'll continue working towards his final goal, "becoming a consistent pro."

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

CSN's Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd preview the Blackhawks' three upcoming games in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

The Blackhawks have three home games before the NHL All-Star break, which takes place in Los Angeles.

The Blackhawks have dates between the Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Winnipeg Jets. All three opponents are out of the playoff picture, sand Steve Konroyd is looking for the Blackhawks to step up in a certain part of their game: scoring.

See what Boyle and Konroyd had to say in the video above.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.