Special Teams receive exceptional marks

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Special Teams receive exceptional marks

A blocked punt and accompanying score is a good way to start any game. The Bears did that with Sherrick McManis block and Corey Woottons score off that and never let the Titans into the game. Coverage units were well prepared and the group mindset was reaching the point that the kickoff team was hoping the Titans would try to run back Robbie Gould kicks.

KICKING: A-

Robbie Gould converted all three field goal tries, from 40, 21 and 22, when the offense was not able to get into the end zone. Gould also forced four touchbacks from a returner (Dariius Reynaud) who routinely brings kicks out from deep in his end zone. Adam Podlesh was serviceable with a 31.7 net on three punts, one inside the 20, and he added a stop on a return.

RETURNING: A

The first-quarter punt block by Sherrick McManis was taken in for a TD by Corey Wootton to put the Titans immediately on their heels at a time when the offense was having real difficulty getting anything underway on the first two possessions. Devin Hester broke a punt return for 44 yards, his longest of any kind this season, and he brought his one kickoff back 26 yards.

COVERAGE: A

Reynaud returned seven kickoffs for a modest 20.7-yard average (vs. 25.8, one TD for the season) as Bears cover teamers made a mission out of getting to him and expecting him to return anything not kicked out of the end zone. Blake Costanzo, Sherrick McManis and Anthony Walters each was in on two tackles and Podlesh, Armando Allen and Eric Weems each had one.

COACHING: A

Coordinator Dave Toub had the Bears thoroughly prepared for the Tennessee formation on the punt blockTD. He also challenged the coverage units all week to deal with one of the top-ranked special-teams group in the NFL and had assignments established without dialing down any of the energy needed to take away Reynaud.

Bill Dineen, father of Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen, passes away

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USA TODAY

Bill Dineen, father of Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen, passes away

Bill Dineen, former AHL and NHL coach and father of Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen, passed away on Saturday morning. He was 84.

Kevin Dineen was not at the Blackhawks’ practice on Saturday. Coach Joel Quenneville called Bill Dineen “a tremendous man.”

“Everyone who had the privilege to meet Bill and be around him loved the guy. He was probably one of the most liked people you’d ever want to meet. Great family man; the kids are just like the dad,” Quenneville said following Saturday’s practice. “We had a good time with him on the dad’s trip last time. Seeing him at that stage and being around hockey again, it was fun to be there.”

Bill Dineen played for the Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings. He later was a head coach, mostly in the AHL. He was named the AHL’s outstanding coach twice and led the Adirondack Red Wings to the Calder Cup in 1986 and 1989. He also had an NHL coaching stint with the Philadelphia Flyers from 1992 to 1993, during which he coached Kevin.

AHL president David Andrews released a statement regarding Dineen’s passing.

“During his time as a player and coach, and in the values he instilled in his family, Bill Dineen created a legacy of greatness in the American Hockey League that still resonates today. Our deepest condolences go out to the entire Dineen family at this time.”

Brent Seabrook could return, but Jonathan Toews will miss ninth straight when Blackhawks play Stars

Brent Seabrook could return, but Jonathan Toews will miss ninth straight when Blackhawks play Stars

Brent Seabrook came onto the ice on Saturday morning, a welcome sight for a Blackhawks team that has dealt with a few injuries lately.

And while Seabrook's return seems imminent, Jonathan Toews’ status remains very much up in the air.

Seabrook (upper body) practiced on Saturday and could be available on Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars at the United Center. Toews (back) did not skate and will miss his ninth consecutive game. Corey Crawford (appendectomy) will also be out, with Scott Darling getting his fifth consecutive start.

Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Seabrook feels on Sunday morning before making a decision.

The defenseman said he felt good following Saturday’s practice.

“The lungs at the end were burning a little bit with Kitch,” said Seabrook, referring to assistant coach Mike Kitchen. “But just trying to get ready to roll.”

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Seabrook hasn’t missed many games in recent years — he played 81 of 82 games in 2015-16, all 82 in each of the two seasons prior to that and 47 of 48 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

“It’s tough. You want to be out there and want to be playing. It’s tough not being out there with your teammates and helping them out and battling with them so I think we did a great job (Friday) night,” Seabrook said. “Had a great game, had a chance for two points in overtime there but got one, which is huge for our group. I think it’s good.”

As for Toews, Quenneville had hoped the captain would be skating by this weekend. He said following Saturday’s practice that Toews could skate on Sunday. Whether or not Toews accompanies the Blackhawks on their upcoming trip to New York depends on what happens on Sunday.

“If he skates tomorrow, we’ll have a better sense of that,” Quenneville said. “We have to do what’s right, long-term, and make sure he’s 100 percent and ready to go.”

Quenneville said he saw Crawford, who had his appendectomy on Dec. 2, Saturday at the rink.

“He’s doing all right,” Quenneville said. “Being away and then getting back on the ice, it’ll take some time to get him back to square one. He’s excited about getting back into equipment soon.”

Marian Hossa and Richard Panik did not practice on Saturday but were just taking rest days. Both are expected to play vs. the Stars.