Draft may not be only way Blackhawks roster changes

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Draft may not be only way Blackhawks roster changes

When the Blackhawks brass arrive in Pittsburgh for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft on Friday, part of their job is grabbing the best players for the future. But the other, more critical part, is what the Blackhawks can do to improve their team now. The draft is as much a trading ground as it is a prospect gathering one, and the Blackhawks will be one of many teams exploring the former options as well as the latter.

General manager Stan Bowman broke down every potential scenario during a conference call on Tuesday. They could make a big move if its the right fit. They could get a few pieces. Or, since they have a full roster already in place, they could just tweak.

Its hard to say at this point, if our team going to be the same as it stands, if well make additions or switch out players. Were always talking and considering different opportunities, Bowman said. If something makes us a better team well pursue it. I guess to answer, its possible well make moves, but we dont have to.

Well, that last sentence is true. And its not so true. Yes, as far as having enough bodies on the roster, enough players to fill each spot, the Blackhawks have that. But as it stands, they would enter 2012-13 regular season with the same team that fell in the first round of the 2011-12 postseason. And for a team thats determined to get back to Stanley Cup contention, status quo is a no-no.

The Blackhawks dont need a major overhaul - lets remember this team is on a four-season playoff roll. But they do need to make changes to bolster what has become a predictable team. They need a stronger supporting cast. They need size on defense. That may mean giving up a player or two -- a source indicated that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador, who have a combined 6 million cap hit this coming season, could be possibilities. That may mean giving up a prized prospect and draft picks. Its the price of winning - and attaining impact players.

And, no, by impact were not talking about acquiring every break-the-bank superstar player out there. While the cap could increase to as much as 70 million, the Blackhawks have plenty of star status and big-money contracts. Its more about finding those great characters, those great role players who have more than one year left in their NHL career. And its about finding them now.

From this weekend until late July, the Blackhawks need to be proactive and more aggressive than last season. For an organization that was going up, up, up en route to claiming the Cup, the first-round exits wont be tolerated much longer.

Bowman said on Tuesday that he loves this time of year, from drafting those prospects to finding the right pieces for the team now. The Blackhawks need to be proactive. If they are, theyre the ones who will be having fun again during the season.

94 Days to Kickoff: Lyons Township

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94 Days to Kickoff: Lyons Township

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26.

School: Lyons Township Lions

Head coach: Kurt Weinberg

Assistant coaches: Jon Beutjer, Bryan Bergman, Mike Morrison, Tim McAlpin, Kevin Diete, Sheldon Harris, Jason Brauer

How they fared in 2015: 5-5 (2-4) West Suburban Silver. The Lions made the Class 8A state playoff field. Lyons Township lost to New trier in the opening round.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Lions reload on the offensive line?

Names to watch this season: QB Ben Bryant, WR Hasahn Austin, DL Mickey Brown

Biggest holes to fill: The Lions bring back 10 returning starters (four offense, six defense), but they will also need to replace all five starting offensive linemen lost to graduation.

EDGY's early take: Weinberg has led the Lions into the state playoff field in each season since taking over the program in 2009. I fully expect the Lions to again challenge for the conference crown and beyond. Lyons Township has some strong offensive skills back and if an inexperienced line play comes around beware.

Starters help White Sox bullpen maintain health for lengthy stretch

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Starters help White Sox bullpen maintain health for lengthy stretch

The White Sox are at another point in their schedule where every inning is precious.

So even though they only managed a split in Monday’s doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians, the White Sox have to feel good not to have taxed their bullpen.

Mat Latos and Erik Johnson combined for 12.1 innings pitched and five relievers combined for another 5.1 on Monday for the White Sox, who are in the midst of a stretch of 17 games in 16 days. Given they have Chris Sale and Jose Quintana scheduled the next two games, the White Sox feel pretty fortunate at the midway point of their lengthy run.

“We didn’t really abuse anybody,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “These doubleheaders can kind of get away from you and both sides probably had that. You get out of these things without having to use anybody in both games and extending anybody.”

With the way things had recently gone for Latos and Johnson’s command issues in his last start, Monday’s doubleheader could have been trouble for the White Sox bullpen.

Latos hadn’t completed six innings since April 24 and posted a 7.84 ERA in his last four starts. And in his only major league start this season, Johnson allowed four earned runs in five innings against the Boston Red Sox on May 5.

Not only do the White Sox have two more here against the Indians, they start a four-game series in Kansas City on Thursday and then head to Citi Field for three against the New York Mets. Only then do they have another day off.

Johnson made two early mistakes, but mostly followed in the footsteps of Latos, who delivered six innings in the opening game before he departed with a 6-3 lead courtesy of a three-run homer by Brett Lawrie.

While Johnson left a 3-0 fastball up to Rajai Davis and he ripped it for a two-run homer, which put Cleveland up 3-1 in the fifth, he faced only five over the minimum through six innings.

“EJ did a good job for us, we just weren’t really getting anything going,” Ventura said.

Johnson — who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the start — entered the seventh inning at 93 pitches. With his team trailing by two, Ventura hoped to steal another inning from his right-hander. The Indians took advantage as Juan Uribe homered and scored another run off the combination of Johnson and reliever Matt Purke, who allowed a hit in 2.1 scoreless innings.

“You want to help the team out and save the bullpen as best you can, especially on these nine and nines,” Johnson said. “That’s your job as a starter for a regular nine inning game, whether it’s a doubleheader or not.

“I’m thankful for the opportunities and if they keep coming I’m going to keep coming back here.”

For now, the opportunity belongs to reliever Tommy Kahnle, whom was added as the 26th man before the doubleheader. By optioning Johnson to Charlotte, the White Sox will employ an eight-man bullpen.

Preview: Cubs look to snap losing streak vs. Cardinals on CSN

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Preview: Cubs look to snap losing streak vs. Cardinals on CSN

The Cubs look to snap a three-game losing streak against the St. Louis Cardinals tonight, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jason Hammel (5-1, 2.31 ERA) vs. Michael Wacha (2-4, 4.03 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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