Bears OL shuffle is the norm, not the exception

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Bears OL shuffle is the norm, not the exception

Maybe everyone should be used to this sort of thing.

The anticipated annual? shakeup of the Bears offensive line proceeded Thursday with Jonathan Scott replacing Gabe Carimi at right tackle and Chris Spencer returning to left guard in place of Chilo Rachal, who had been his replacement after the Green Bay game.

It felt pretty good, getting the calls down and communicating, things of that nature, Scott said. I think its definitely conducive to winning.

For Carimi it was a tough epilogue to a disastrous outing against the San Francisco 49ers and rush linebacker Aldon Smith, who abused Carimi, J'Marcus Webb and others for 5.5 sacks, a record for any Bears opponent.

It seemed like it just kept rolling worse and worse, Carimi said. I didnt play my best and I can only talk about myself. I needed to do a better job and didnt. I needed to step up and I didnt.

Situation normal: in complete flux

It is far from the first time that the Bears have had to scramble with a shuffle on the offensive line, not the first time Spencer has been a key figure, and not the first time that right tackle has been an issue.

Spencer began last year on the bench but was dropped in at right guard in Weeks 2-4 when Louis was down with an ankle injury and then just held out. Louis returned for Game 5 but by then the struggles of Frank Omiyale in place of Carimi had become unacceptable and Louis was shunted out to right tackle and Spencer brought in at right guard again.

Chaos does not automatically translate to collapse. The 2010 team had four different front-fives three different starting right tackles in the first six games. The result was a 4-2 mark in that stretch even with the nine-sack first half against the New York Giants that cost them a Jay Cutler game with a concussion.

If the Bears go 4-2 from this point, they are 11-5 and a virtual lock for the playoffs.

Searching for depth in the draft

The Bears didnt address their offensive line in the draft because the organization believed the tackle tandem of JMarcus Webb and Carimi, a No. 1 in the 2011 draft, was adequate at the time, with an arrow pointing up. Carimi was one of the top linemen when he was injured, so the expectation for improvement was anything but a stretch.

But you can never be too rich, too thin or have too many tackles and the Bears quietly drafted three extras: James Brown, a surprise undrafted free agent, signed April 29; Corey Brandon, an undrafted free agent with Tampa Bay last year, signed June 15; and Scott, added on Sept. 10. Brown and Brandon wound up on the practice squad.

The Bears appear to like Tampa Bay castoffs. Besides Brandon, defensive tackle Brian Price was signed during training camp (cut after preseason) and guard Chris Riley was signed on Thursday after spending the majority of the 2011 season on Tampa Bays practice squad.

Today on CSN: White Sox face Athletics in spring training game

Today on CSN: White Sox face Athletics in spring training game

The White Sox will battle the Oakland Athletics today, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins at 3:05 p.m.

Today's starting pitching matchup: Carlos Rodon vs. Kendall Graveman

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Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

It wasn't pretty, but the Blackhawks found a way to pick up another two points and improved to 6-0-1 over their last seven games, and 18-3-1 over their last 22.

With Minnesota's loss to Philadelphia, the Blackhawks have taken an eight-point lead for first in the Central Division and are only two points away from the Washington Capitals for home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.

Let's take a look at Quick Hits from the 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night:

What Worked: The finish and shootout. While the Blackhawks scored the game's first goal, it was another slow start by a team that has had a few of those over the last several outings and has preached working on turning in more of a complete effort. They recorded only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods, and it took more than six minutes after Patrick Kane's goal to record their next one.

But they finished on a positive note yet again, and went 2-for-3 in the shootout thanks to Kane and Artemi Panarin, who potted the game winner. Kane said after the game that he tried his move on Scott Darling during morning skate and it worked. So he went with it tonight in an effort to snap a mini shootout drought and he did.

What Didn't Work: Controlling the puck. The Blackhawks seemingly have the puck more than their opponent does almost every game, but it doesn't reflect in the shot department because they often look for the perfect pass or shot and fail to record one at all. They had 50 shot attempts with 26 of them on goal compared to the Stars' 64 attempts with 44 on goal. They know they must get better at that.

Star of the game: Corey Crawford. After allowing four goals on only 10 shots in Tuesday's overtime loss to Vancouver, the Blackhawks netminder bounced back in a huge way. He matched a season-high with 42 saves, and recorded his 30th win of the season.

He Said It: "He played amazing tonight. Reason we won the game. Hats off to him, he's done that a lot this year. For a goalie it's probably tough to show up every night, even the goals he let in last game you can't put all the blame on him, but he was outstanding tonight." — Kane on Crawford's performance

By the Numbers:

167 — Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked one shot in the win, and it was enough to set a new career high in that department, previously established during the 2010-11 campaign (166).

15 — Trevor van Riemsyk assisted on Marian Hossa's goal in the third period, giving him a career-high 15 points on the season in 50 games. He had 14 points in 82 games last year. He also extended his point streak to three games.

6 — With the victory, Crawford has earned at least 30 wins in six of his seven NHL seasons as a full-time starter. The only time he didn't reach that mark was during the lockout-shortened year in 2012-13 when he went 19-5-5.