Bettman addresses Final, league-wide concerns

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Bettman addresses Final, league-wide concerns

The Kings took a 1-0 lead in the series against the Devils last night in New Jersey, continuing their flawless streak on the road and maintaining their record of never falling behind in a series throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The last time the Kings made an appearance in the Final was back in 1993 when they were eliminated in Game 5 against the Montreal Canadiens. That season also marks the first year Gary Bettman began serving as NHL commissioner, so he understands and appreciates the excitement this series is bringing to the league.

But as they end of the postseason approaches, questions concerning the league's CBA situation arise. NBC Sports spoke with Bettman, asking what fans can anticipate as the league heads into the off-season.

"My hope is that we can get through this quickly, quietly, and painlessly," Bettman said. "I know there's been a lot of speculation and a lot of pessimism, but we haven't had any substantive conversations yet, so I'm not sure anyone should be rushing to conclusions yet.

"I think it's better for them to enjoy what's going to happen in the next few days and weeks here between the Kings and the Devils."

The NHL has cracked down on on-ice antics as well as gear protection, and although we've seen top players in the league suffer long-sustained injuries this season, it seems like there's light at the end of the tunnel.

"For the first time in three years, the number of concussions went down... and that's in the face of us being much more aggressive in diagnosing concussions and much more conservative in their treatment."

After seeing how Sidney Crosby, Chris Pronger, and even Jonathan Toews were affected by concussions, it's hard to believe that the issue is being resolved. But after seeing suspensions such as Raffi Torres' 25-game ban, it's apparent that the league is being stricter on reprimanding illegal play.

AP Illinois preps football rankings: Preseason

AP Illinois preps football rankings: Preseason

Here are the preseason rankings of Illinois high school football teams in each class, according to an Associated Press panel of sportswriters.

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Loyola (10) 0-0 100 -
2 Lincoln-Way East 0-0 79 -
3 Glenbard West 0-0 60 -
4 Homewood-Flossmoor 0-0 52 -
5 Edwardsville 0-0 39 -
6 Marist 0-0 37 -
7 Palatine 0-0 32 -
8 Waubonsie Valley 0-0 29 -
8 (tie) Glenbard North 0-0 29 -
10 Huntley 0-0 28 -

Other receiving votes: Brother Rice (27), Naperville Neuqua Valley (17), Stevenson (8), Oak Park River Forest (5), Naperville Central (5), Glenbard East (2), Oswego (1)

Class 7A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Chicago Mt. Carmel (7) 0-0 91 -
2 East St. Louis (2) 0-0 72 -
3 Batavia 0-0 64 -
4 Libertyville (2) 0-0 62 -
5 Normal Community 0-0 54 -
6 Bradley-Bourbonnais 0-0 46 -
7 Jacobs 0-0 37 -
8 Wheaton Warrenville South 0-0 33 -
9 St. Charles North 0-0 27 -
10 St. Rita 0-0 22 -

Other receiving votes: Benet (21), Geneva (13), Lake Zurich (12), Lincoln Way West (12), Wheaton North (11), Machesney Park Harlem (9), Niles North (9), Schaumburg (4), Whitney Young (3), Fenwick (2), Belleville West (1)

Class 6A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Montini (8) 0-0 104 -
2 Sacred Heart-Griffin (Spr) (2) 0-0 92 -
3 Cary-Grove (1) 0-0 88 -
3 (tie) Prairie Ridge 0-0 82 -
5 Crete-Monee 0-0 76 -
6 Rockford Auburn 0-0 25 -
7 Lemont 0-0 21 -
8 Providence 0-0 20 -
9 Belvidere North 0-0 16 -
10 St. Laurence 0-0 15 -
10 (tie) Quincy 0-0 15 -

Other receiving votes: Oak Lawn Richards (13), Hinsdale South (10), DeKalb (9), Kennedy (7), Danville (7), Riverside-Brookfield (5), Lakes Community (3), Normal West (3), Chatham Glenwood (3), Grayslake (3), Harvey Thornton (3), Lake Forest (2)

Class 5A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Nazareth (7) 0-0 119 -
2 Peoria Central (1) 0-0 107 -
3 Washington 0-0 101 -
4 Joliet Catholic (5) 0-0 83 -
5 Champaign Central 0-0 54 -
6 Sterling 0-0 34 -
7 Sycamore 0-0 30 -
7 (tie) Centralia 0-0 30 -
9 Metamora 0-0 26 -
10 Triad 0-0 24 -

Other receiving votes: Woodstock Marian (23), Highland (18), Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights) (17), Eisenhower (15), Tinley Park (8), St. Francis (6), Dunlap (6), Richwoods (4), LaSalle-Peru (4), Jacksonville (3), Glenbard South (1), Peoria Notre Dame (1), Chicago (Solorio Academy) (1)

Class 4A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Phillips (11) 0-0 127 -
2 Althoff Catholic (2) 0-0 118 -
3 Rochester 0-0 99 -
4 Breese Mater Dei 0-0 68 -
5 Geneseo 0-0 52 -
6 Marengo 0-0 46 -
7 Mateno 0-0 45 -
8 Johnsburg 0-0 44 -
9 Richmond-Burton 0-0 36 -
10 Plano 0-0 28 -

Other receiving votes: Rockford Lutheran (17), Columbia (15), Taylorville (9), Quincy Notre Dame (5), Murphysboro (3), Rock Island Alleman (1), Herrin (1), Bethalto Civic Memorial (1)

Class 3A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Bishop McNamara (8) 0-0 124 -
2 Tolono Unity (3) 0-0 110 -
3 Wilmington 0-0 75 -
4 IC Catholic (2) 0-0 63 -
5 Monticello 0-0 48 -
6 North-Mac 0-0 43 -
7 Pana 0-0 42 -
8 Newton 0-0 39 -
9 Paxton-Buckley-Loda 0-0 34 -
9 (tie) Byron 0-0 34 -

Other receiving votes: St. Joseph-Ogden (31), Bloomington Central Catholic (20), Carlinville (15), Elmwood-Brimfield (15), Breese Central (10), Williamsville (9), Princeton (8), Winnebago (5), Aurora Christian (5), Mercer County (3), Mt. Carmel (3), Herscher (2), Dwight (1), Westville (1), Marshall (1)

Class 2A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Auburn (1) 0-0 90 -
2 Downs Tri-Valley 0-0 84 -
3 Maroa-Forsyth (2) 0-0 79 -
4 Deer Creek-Mackinaw (3) 0-0 73 -
5 Sterling Newman (1) 0-0 52 -
6 St. Bede 0-0 48 -
7 Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 0-0 35 -
7 (tie) Wethersfield 0-0 35 -
9 Mendon Unity 0-0 20 -
10 Orion 0-0 42 -

Other receiving votes: Rockridge (15), Nashville (14), Bismarck-Henning (11), Hall (11), Eldorado (7), DuQuoin (6), El Paso-Gridley (4), Champaign St. Thomas More (4), Villa Grove (4), Clifton Central (3), Chester (3), Fulton (3), Hamilton West Hancock (3), Eastland-Pearl City (1), Lawrenceville (1)

Class 1A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Stark County (3) 0-0 91 -
2 Decatur St. Teresa (2) 0-0 76 -
3 Ottawa Marquette (1) 0-0 65 -
4 Lena-Winslow (2) 0-0 62 -
5 Tuscola 0-0 60 -
6 Forreston (2) 0-0 53 -
7 Carrollton 0-0 36 -
8 Dakota 0-0 31 -
9 Mt. Sterling (Brown County) 0-0 30 -
10 Athens (1) 0-0 27 -

Other receiving votes: LeRoy (26), Arcola (23), Bureau Valley (22), Stockton (16), Camp Point Central (13), Pawnee (11), Galena (6), Cerro Gordo (Cerro Gordo-Bement Coop) (5), Concord (Triopia) (4), Sidell (Jamaica)-Salt Fork (2), Hardin (Calhoun) (1)

How soon before Cubs make Javier Baez an everyday player?

How soon before Cubs make Javier Baez an everyday player?

SAN DIEGO — The airtight defensive alignment for October would have to include Javier Baez, a game-changing force moving in all directions. The Cubs have seen Baez make barehanded plays and laser throws, take charge on bunts and frustrate hitters with an uncanny ability to improvise and make split-second decisions.

Baez and Addison Russell are two of the best athletes in the entire game, Jake Arrieta said after Tuesday night’s win over the San Diego Padres, so put the ball in play and let those two middle infielders take over.

There could be playoff lineups where Baez starts at second base and bumps Ben Zobrist to the outfield. But manager Joe Maddon isn’t about to hand Baez an everyday job, sticking with the super-utility formula and versatile philosophy that’s helped the Cubs become the best team in baseball.

“It depends on how we morph as a group over the next couple years,” Maddon said Wednesday at Petco Park. “Right now, I like the way it’s working out. I like the fact that (Javy’s) getting rested (and) not playing every day. Look at his at-bats — they have gotten better, too. He is making adjustments or adaptations during the at-bat. He’s not just out of control every swing.”

Baez has channeled his aggressiveness, hitting .276 with 13 homers, 47 RBIs and 83 strikeouts through 343 plate appearances, becoming a more mature and well-rounded player at the age of 23.

“You’re seeing a lot of progress,” Maddon said. “Who knows if by playing sporadically this is becoming more part of who he is? As opposed to playing every day, maybe getting caught in the trap of not hitting well, whatever, and all of a sudden he takes it on defense. It’s natural progression. He’s an everyday player, there’s no question, in maybe a couple years.”

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The Geek Department and scouting reports will ultimately influence where Baez plays, because Maddon wants him wherever the ball will most likely be hit most often. When Jon Lester pitches, that can mean Baez starting at third base and Kris Bryant moving to the outfield.

The Cubs promised Zobrist the second-base job when he signed a four-year, $56 million contract, agreeing the focus on one position would help reduce the wear and tear on his body at the age of 35. The Cubs still need Zobrist’s switch-hitting skills and World Series experience in the lineup.

Maddon also wants to keep Jorge Soler involved — because he’s a presence other teams have to account for — and maybe that will mean sacrificing Jason Heyward’s Gold Glove defense in right field at times.

But Baez is the type of defender the Cubs will want to see out there in one-run, low-scoring playoff games.

“He’s unbelievable,” Bryant said. “Any ball hit his way — whether it’s in the air, on the ground, on line — you kind of just expect him to make the play and make it look good. That’s what he’s been doing all year. I certainly think he’s Gold Glove worthy, but he plays all over. I feel like there should be a utility man Gold Glove, because he definitely (deserves it).”

U.S. Cellular Field to become Guaranteed Rate Field after 2016 season

U.S. Cellular Field to become Guaranteed Rate Field after 2016 season

The White Sox announced on Wednesday they have signed a 13-year naming rights deal with Guaranteed Rate for their home ballpark, which will be known as Guaranteed Field beginning on Nov. 1, 2016. 

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority approved the name change in a meeting on Wednesday.

"We are pleased to find, in Guaranteed Rate, a new naming rights partner founded in Chicago by Chicagoans, which shares our commitment to the city and to our fans," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. "We view this partnership as an opportunity to connect a successful Chicago business with a historic baseball franchise, and we look forward to growing this important relationship over the coming years as millions of fans enjoy White Sox baseball at Guaranteed Rate Field."

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Under the team's lease for the ballpark, the White Sox retain an option that could extend the naming rights deal an additional year through 2030.

The White Sox played at Comiskey Park from 1991-2002 before the ballpark's name changed to U.S. Cellular Field from 2003-2016.