Situation right for Lance Louis contract extension

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Situation right for Lance Louis contract extension

While doubts abound at multiple spots along the Bears offensive line Chilo Rachal already is out and Chris Spencer in at left guard, Gabe Carimi is in doubt at right tackle right guard is not one of them.

Indeed, quite the opposite, with Lance Louis now among the leading prospects for multi-year contract extension before this season.

I think Lance has had a very consistent year as far as improving, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice, who began coaching Louis and the Bears offensive line in 2010. I think every week he gets better. Im very pleased with his progress. He has that one or two plays a game that Im sure he would like to have back but hes continuing to improve as a young player, and in leaps and bounds.

His arrow is up.

So is his contract after this year. But whether he ever makes it to free agency is unlikely given that both he and the team would like him to stay in Chicago.

I love it here, Louis said. Love it. No doubt about it I cant think about all of that right now but man, I would love to stay here.

Louis, who once needed a strong final preseason game to ensure getting past final cuts as a rookie, signed a four-year contract after the Bears selected him in the seventh round of the 2009 draft and has found a home.

More to the immediate situation and timing, the Bears have organizational history of taking early care of offensive linemen they want to keep. Last November the Bears signed center Roberto Garza to a two-year extension. They extended backup centerguard Edwin Williams in late December.

As the Bears address crisis situations elsewhere along the front, locking up what quality there already is in place becomes a priority.

You can see that were getting better as a group, Garza said. You know that if you can keep the guys together over time, you have that chemistry, the ability to play together.

Locking up Louis long term will be a welcome statement in the locker room.

Amid the carnage of the Bears in general and the offensive line in particular last Monday night in San Francisco, two players actually had a teammate speaking in superlatives.

I think Garza played an amazing game, said wide receiver Brandon Marshall. And I just got done watching the film, and watching Lance. Man, we can win with that type of effort. He was just throwing guys around.

Im proud to say Im his teammate, because those are the type of guys you want to win with and if we can all get on that level, the way those guys played, I think well have a chance.

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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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