Camp chatter: Drake defends Hester, Carimi looking healthy

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Camp chatter: Drake defends Hester, Carimi looking healthy

Cleaning out the notebook from day one and looking to day two.

Brian Urlacher was wearing a brace on his left knee, which was injured in game 16. He was in every practice session and looked to be moving well. Whether he goes full on Friday is something to watch, since there could be some swelling after a return day, in addition to Saturday looming as the first big day in pads.

Receivers coach Darryl Drake is the first to get inside the facemask of his guys and get in it hard. Hes also the first to bare those sharp teeth when he thinks his boys are being unfairly criticized.

Like Devin Hester, when one reporter noted that Hester had just 26 receptions last year (after 51, 57 and 40 the preceding three seasons).

The only time he had 26 was last year, Drake declared. We didnt throw it to him. It wasnt his fault.

-- Tackle Gabe Carimi also went through a full practice on his surgically repaired knee and wasnt impaired. Neither was Julius Peppers on one snap where he accelerated on an outside route past Carimi and into a position to have turned Jay Cutler into road kill.

-- Kahlil Bell, a No. 3 running back with a 1.26 million one-year contract, put himself in some early roster jeopardy with the first fumble of camp. Fumbling was a concern with Bell last season and will be his ticket out of Chicago if there are many repeats.

-- Coordinator Mike Tice was clearly fuming about the number of drops and fumbles by members of his offense, and also about the unimpressive first showing of his offensive line.

Im not going to put up with any crap as far as turning guys free and not protecting the quarterback, Tice said.

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USA TODAY

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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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