Bears looking at backups points to Cutler missing SF game

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Bears looking at backups points to Cutler missing SF game

Coach Lovie Smith keeps information pertaining to injuries to players and their availability for an upcoming game famously private. Between not wishing to give rivals competitive information and restricting how much personal medical information is made revealed, nuclear launch codes sometimes have a better chance of becoming public.

However, whether he will be able to keep the San Francisco 49ers from knowing who will be his starting quarterback Jay Cutler or Jason Campbell for next Mondays game remains to be seen.

Cutler and defensive end Shea McClellin left Sundays game with concussions. Neither are expected to play against the 49ers.

Perhaps the best indication that Cutler will not play was the Bears immediate search for a veteran backup on Monday, expected to be former Bears backup Josh McCown, according to multiple sources.

Were looking at all our options at the quarterback position, Smith said. Hes one of them. Of course, he played good football for us in the final two games of 2011. Were familiar with him.

The nature of concussions is such that the NFL has taken an increasingly strong stance against quick return from that injury.

That includes practicing as well, which could force Smith and staff to make a decision sooner rather than later about the starter.

Yes, it does, Smith said. You want to know as soon as possible of course to let that guy start getting the reps.

The No. 1 quarterback takes the vast majority of practice reps. If Campbell is going to play, he needs to get the work throughout a week of preparation for a defense even more difficult to score on that Houstons.

And if Cutler is going to play, he needs to be cleared conclusively early so he can get his necessary preparation with the rest of the offense.

Concussion protocol

Smith repeated the statement that the Bears have and will always err on the side of keeping injured players out. Concussions have a specific protocol of tests, comparing the results from those tests with a previously established baseline, and determining that a player is symptom-free.

If he is not, he is held out and the process begins again. Cutler had a concussion in an October 2010 game that caused him to miss the game the next weekend.

Smith said that when Cutler began to show symptoms of concussion at halftime Sunday, the Bears removed him from the game.

Every concussion is a little bit different, Smith said. I just know during that game a guy has symptoms, has a concussion, were not going to play him then. Well go through the protocol and once theyve been cleared to come back for practice and play, thats when hell play. Its really as simple as that. Weve already started the process with that.

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The Blackhawks were finally getting healthy and now may be missing a key player once again. That depends on how Niklas Hjalmarsson feels after suffering an upper-body injury against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.

It was certainly the toughest part of the Blackhawks' victory, a 6-3 triumph that has the Blackhawks closing in on the Wild. We'll see what the Hjalmarsson update is over the weekend. Until then, let's look at the notables from this one.

What Worked: The offense. We'll give an honorable mention to the penalty kill, which snuffed out all of the Coyotes' chances including a double minor that overlapped the second and third periods. But the offense was just buzzing again. Here's another shocker: the top line is still working just fine. The trio got things started with Nick Schmaltz's goal just 37 seconds into the game (Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik assisted). And much like in their meeting with the Coyotes earlier this month, the Blackhawks needed just about every bit of that offense. While we're on this topic...

What Didn't Work: The first-period defense. The Blackhawks looked like they were in good shape up 3-1 but then they gave up two goals within a minute late in the period. Michal Rozsival had a rough start in his first game since Jan. 15, but overall, the Blackhawks' defense through that first period looked discombobulated. Obviously, it didn't help that the Blackhawks lost Hjalmarsson during the first, either.

[RELATED: Patrick Kane nets hat trick as Blackhawks cruise past Coyotes]

Star of the game: Patrick Kane. One game after Jonathan Toews recorded a hat trick Kane did the same, scoring his 21st, 22nd and 23rd goals of the season. On a night in which the Blackhawks dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen, Kane got a little extra playing time. His first goal came on a first-period shift with Ryan Hartman and Tanner Kero, the second off a long pass from Brent Seabrook and the third with his usual line mates.

He Said It: "I didn't play much before I got hurt, then I missed four weeks with my injury. It wasn't easy but definitely the way the team's playing now, it made it easier for me. It felt like the first game of the season for me but glad we got the victory and glad I was back playing. I enjoyed it." — Michal Rozsival on returning to the Blackhawks' lineup. 

By the Numbers: 

6 – Number of times, in their last eight games, the Blackhawks have scored five or more goals.

342 – Assists for Jonathan Toews, who tied Dennis Hull for 12th all-time in franchise history in that category.

35 – Combined points for the Blackhawks' top liners Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik in their nine games together. The breakdown in those nine games: Toews has 16 points, Panik 10 and Schmaltz nine.

1997 – The last time the Blackhawks had hat tricks in back-to-back regular-season games. Alexei Zhamnov and Eric Daze had them on April 11 and April 13, 1997, respectively.