Konroyd: Where do we go from here?

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Konroyd: Where do we go from here?

Another playoff game in the books, another controversial incident, and another black eye for the NHL. A great question was posed by a tweeter in our postgame show wanting to know what can be done "about the ref's current inability to keep the game under control." An excellent question and one that has a lot of different components to the answer.

My attempt at an answer, and this is the short version, is that as a ref you have to have a feel for the game. Now I'll admit that NHL hockey is far and away the toughest sport to officiate, but when we see crimes on the ice go unpunished, it leaves you shaking your head and wondering what these sheriffs on the ice are doing. And it goes beyond the Marian Hossa non-call. But we might as well start there.

Raffi Torres, who has been very effective and valuable to Phoenix in this series so far, had just leveled Dylan Olsen -- a pretty sturdy defenseman at 215 pounds -- and Torres was on a roll. He proceeded to catapult himself into Marian Hossa (about six seconds after the Olsen hit) with a well-placed shoulder to the head. Think of it as a 210 pound punch flying through the air and smashing into your jaw. There was a linesman five feet away who must have felt the impact because he started to put his arm up to protect himself when Hossa was knocked horizontal.

Maybe he was watching the puck, but there were three other officials on the ice, two of which have to be watching for just this type of penalty. Not only did everyone miss it, they let Hossa lie on the ice motionless and concussed for a good 10 seconds before they blew the whistle. Head trainer Mike Gapski was already on the ice attending to the victim as 22,000 screaming fans were calling for the refs attention.

It was almost as if they didn't want to see it because they knew they had screwed up. And what was the reaction from referee Ian Walsh? An emphatic whistle and penalty, signalling Blackhawk Brandon Bollig to get to the penalty box. There would be none of these shenanigans on his watch! Wait a second, you ask yourself as you give your head a shake. Did I really just watch this? Where was he 20 seconds ago?

There was a spear that was missed and a flagrant trip that almost ended up in the back of the net for the Blackhawks. And that was all in just the first period. But getting back to the question, its all about feel. As a referee, you have to be so clued in to the game that you have to become one of the players. I can guarantee you that every player on the bench and on the ice saw that illegal hit. I know 22,000 fans did.

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger has been sidelined a little longer than the originally expected three weeks with his right hand injury. Not that any missed time is enjoyable.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't," said Kruger, who suffered his injury on Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared. That's my mindset."

Kruger is close, but not quite there, as the Blackhawks prepared for Sunday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kruger skated with his teammates for the first time since being injured but wasn't among the line rushes. The center took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice. Kruger pronounced himself, "pretty close," to returning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is over the next few days. The Blackhawks play again Tuesday and Thursday before heading into the All-Star break this weekend.

The Blackhawks have missed Kruger's versatility and especially his play on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks' kill has been fine through Kruger's absence but he nevertheless is a big part of it when he's healthy.

"We have a lot of options and when he's out everyone gets a more important role, whether starting or faceoffs. And we have a rotation of five guys who are in there most of the time. But he definitely absorbs the most responsibility when he's playing in that area," Quenneville said of Kruger. "So it's nice you get to try some other guys and you get deeper as you go along."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the players who's emerged in Kruger's absence is Tanner Kero, who filled his third-line center void. Kero and linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa clicked on the dads trip, coming up with big plays and points in the Blackhawks' victories over Colorado and Boston. As of now, Kero appears to have the hold on third-line center.

"I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

Kruger said he's fine if that means returning to fourth-line center duties. Regardless, he'll help bolster the Blackhawks' forward lines. The last step is likely contact, which Kruger got a little of – outside of faceoffs – in Sunday's skate. Kruger's had to wait a little longer than expected on his injury but he's getting there.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't. Tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared," Kruger said. "That's my mindset."

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

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AP

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

The sports world woke up to some tragic news on Sunday morning.

Former major leaguer Andy Marte and Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura were both killed in separate car accidents in the Dominican Republic within an hour of each other, according to multiple reports. A Royals representative confirmed the death of 25-year-old Ventura.

The Cubs and White Sox took to Twitter to give their condolences:

Ventura was a member of the Royals from 2013-16 and won a World Series title in 2015 with Ben Zobrist and Wade Davis, who the Cubs acquired this offseason for Jorge Soler. Ventura also played with White Sox pitcher James Shields in 2013-14.

Marte, 33, played a majority of his seven-year career with the Cleveland Indians. He was teammates with Todd Hollandsworth (Atlanta 2005), Kerry Wood (Cleveland 2009-10), and Miguel Montero (Arizona 2014).