Opportunity knocks for 7 Bears 'tryouts'

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Opportunity knocks for 7 Bears 'tryouts'

They are still deep in the category of longshots and will be for the foreseeable future but seven unrostered players out of 34 tryout prospects brought to Halas Hall for this weekends rookie minicamp made enough of an impression to be signed to their first NFL contracts.

Some undrafted players made their mark, said coach Lovie Smith. The group of tryout guys that came here without a contract, always anxious to see what we have from those. A few of the guys really made us take notice.

All of the position players signed were on offense, plus one kicker and one punter:

Wide receiver Joe Anderson, Texas Southern; quarterback Matt Blanchard, Wisconsin-Whitewater; tackle Tyler Hendrickson, Concordia; guard Nick Pieschel, Central Florida; and tight end Brandon Venson, Illinois State.

Boston College punter Ryan Quigley and Connecticut kicker David Teggart also were signed as relief legs for Adam Podlesh and Robbie Gould.

The Bears wont keep four quarterbacks but that number is important in ensuring that veterans Jay Cutler, Jason Campbell and Josh McCown are not overused for drills and other sessions.

Blanchard and Ronnie Fouch from Indiana State both gave good accounts of themselves in the three days work. Blanchard quarterbacked UW-Whitewater to the last two of the Warhawks three consecutive NCAA Div. III national championships.

They were students of the game, said quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates. They executed well. It was fun to watch those guys.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.