Blackhawks aren't discouraged by negative negotiations

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Blackhawks aren't discouraged by negative negotiations

As the weekend begins, this much is known: the NHL and NHLPAs talks Thursday ended in acrimonious fashion, and there will be no hockey through Nov. 1.

Even with all that, players remain optimistic a deal can be done.

The league canceled another round of games on Friday, this time through Nov. 1. Yes, it was another round of tough news, but hardly unexpected. There was no way there would have been a new collective bargaining agreement in place soon enough to play games Oct. 25 through the first of November. The league stopped short of that Nov. 2 date they were hoping, at least as of earlier this week, would be the start of a salvaged 82-game season.

And while there will be no hockey through the rest of October, players hope talks will resume soon.

As players, were trying to stay positive and not overreact to the lack of progress yesterday, Jonathan Toews said after practice on Friday. Were still confident the proposals we came up with were very positive and effective for both sides. Well go with that and see what happens next week. As long as were talking, somethings going to happen.

The league proposed its 50-50 deal on Tuesday; and on Thursday the players association responded with three proposals of their own all of which got to 50-50 at some point during the proposal term. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said the groups third option began immediately at 50-50, as long as owners honored players existing contracts. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly later disputed the NHLPAs claims on its third proposal, saying it was most likely a 56- to 57-percent deal, not 50-50.

Talks stalled quickly, and the dour tones of both commissioner Gary Bettman and Fehr snuffed out any developed optimism.

Its to be expected. Its not going to be one of those things where, after an offer, were going to lay down or after our proposal theyre going to lay down, Patrick Kane said. But you still have to look at the positive. Somethings out there; somethings being worked on to be negotiated. You cant get too up and down in this process.

Kane was just about set to sign with a European team earlier this week, changing his mind when it looked like talks could lead to something. Kane is still planning on playing in the Champs for Charity game, which former Blackhawks teammate Adam Burish helped organize, on Oct. 26. After that game, and depending on whats happening between the league and NHLPA, Kane may revisit his European options.

So the players will practice on while the league and NHLPA brass, hopefully, keep trying to work something out. Being ready, especially physically, wont be an issue for most of the players; theyve been skating on a regular basis here.

It all comes down to when things are worked out off the ice.

We know (Thursday) wasnt the best day, said Toews, who was in those meetings in Toronto. It doesnt mean we dont keep moving forward and keep working toward trying to get where we want to go.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it’s probably a little too late in the season for that, they’ll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They’ll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They’ll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

“The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We’re going to have to match that. We’re going to have to come out and play physical basketball.”

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it’s just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

“I did, actually,” said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he’s scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside’s tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg—although one can imagine how animated he must’ve been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

“It is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute.”

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn’t seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls’ success over LeBron James’ Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

“Against big teams, we play much better,” Mirotic said. “I don’t know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It’s on us. We just have to prove it.”

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who’ve just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

“Sure, we understand,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy.” 

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