Mayers' return brings about questions for Blackhawks

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Mayers' return brings about questions for Blackhawks

With our Tracey Myers confirming that Jamal Mayers will return to the Blackhawks for a second season, one question is answered, while also creating others.

The coaching staff and management loved what Mayers provided making him the best veteran acquisition from last off-season, along with Ray Emery. Thats further reason to take Joel Quenneville at his word that he was just looking to try something different after Game 3 versus Phoenix, hoping Brendan Morrison might provide a little more of some much-needed offense after getting himself in his best shape since his serious knee injury more than a year earlier. And Morrison played his best three games as a Hawk. It unfortunately came at Mayers expense, and it was evident it cut into his pride after he consistently did what was asked of him the previous six months.

Whatever hard feelings there may have been, bygones are now bygones. So if Daniel Carcillo and Andrew Shaw are lineup regulars, that pair and Mayers return to provide next years squad those edgesandpapertoughness ingredients if not overwhelming size.

Now it also leads one to wonder about where that leaves Mayers on the fourth line and Marcus Kruger on the depth chart. If Patrick Kane does, indeed, become the second-line center, and Dave Bolland remains a part of this team, Kruger either centers the fourth line with Mayers at wing, or becomes a wing himself somewhere in the lineup.

Either that, or Stan Bowman might be looking to wheel-and-deal for some roster changes. There are 13 forwards on the roster now, not including restricted free agent Brandon Bollig, or Brandon Saad, who may very well be worthy of an opening night roster spot. Include them, and thats 15 to fill 12 spots.

They dont have a lot of maneuverability, either, factoring in the money theyve already committed with about 6 million in salary cap space at the current cap, which could very well shrink whenever a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

The unrestricted free agent list isnt particularly sexy in terms of depth or the money the Hawks could currently spend. So maybe there could be some moves or departures on the horizon as this puzzles pieced together this off-season.
Working off the Latest Template

Every sport -- and every league -- is a copycat league. Two years ago, when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, it created a philosophy that de-emphasized elite goaltending if there was enough competency in the crease and excellence around it to capture hockeys Holy Grail.

As we get ready for this Kings-Devils Stanley Cup Final, we encounter one franchise that greatly altered its philosophy with the hiring of a head coach Dale Tallon fired in Florida.

The Devils now move. They forecheck relentlessly, almost to perfection these last two rounds, and each of Peter DeBoers players are on the same page on what to do when their aggressiveness is set in motion. And that old-man goalie might not be great anymore, but hes still very, very good and allowed himself to adjust his style within this new system.

The other is a team that couldnt buy a goal for most of the season, but a coaching change, a couple of call-ups and its massive size have worked in combination with stellar goaltending to steamroll its way through three rounds. The Kings post-season began with absolutely nothing to lose as an eighth seed. Theyve evolved into a monster thats been the best team in hockey over the past six weeks.

The teams the Devils and Kings defeated the Rangers and Coyotes - each made it through two rounds by committing to their respective systems that often suffocated opponents who had some pretty good firepower.

So, looking at the conference finalists, how much will other teams around the league try to use that template and attempt to create a similar style? How far do the Blackhawks go in seeing those elements as the secret to this years post-season success? And if theyre so inclined to try to get closer to that style, how much would they need to change, personnel-wise? If not, do they have the personnel in place to overcome those styles next season?

Style and systems have trumped seedings in this years quest for the Cup.

Injury Report: Kevan Smith back on DL, Jason Heyward dodges a bullet

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Injury Report: Kevan Smith back on DL, Jason Heyward dodges a bullet

Each week, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the injury report from both the Cubs and White Sox, presented by Service King.

WHITE SOX

Kevan Smith has had a roller coaster of a month, and it's back on the downfall. On Tuesday, Smith returned to Triple-A Charlotte after missing about a month due to a back injury. But after the game, Smith went back on the DL with an undisclosed injury. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run.

Smith was promoted to the main roster on April 24 to replace catcher Alex Avila, who went on the 15-day DL with a sore hamstring. The following day, Smith suffered a sacroiliac joint dysfunction injury during warm-ups without making his MLB debut.

Nate Jones returned to action last week after missing a few games due to a bruised foot caused by a line drive. Jones made three consecutive appearances from May 21-23. In those games, he pitched a combined 1.2 innings and only allowed one hit while striking out three.

Jake Petricka (right hip impingement) and Daniel Webb (right elbow flexor inflammation) are still on the 15-day disabled list. There's no timetable for their returns. On Saturday, manager Robin Ventura said Petricka was still battling soreness in his hip. 

CUBS

The Cubs dodged a serious injury bullet a week ago when Jason Heyward crashed into the wall in San Francisco. The Cubs outfielder wound up missing just three-plus games and returned to the lineup Tuesday against his old team in St. Louis.

Heyward went just 1-for-10 with a walk and two strikeouts in the final two games against the Cardinals, but his re-insertion into the lineup has helped create a butterfly effect with the Cubs lineup. Heyward did make his one hit count — a two-run double in the Cubs' 9-8 victory Wednesday.

The Cubs got more positive outfield news when Matt Szczur was activated from the disabled list Saturday and has looked completely over his hamstring issue.

Szczur has appeared in every game since his return, going 3-for-6 with a triple, two RBI and two runs scored. He his now hitting .389 with a 1.089 OPS on the season.

'Yay me!': Cubs celebrate David Ross' 100th career homer

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'Yay me!': Cubs celebrate David Ross' 100th career homer

"Yay me!"

That's how David Ross announced his presence to the Chicago media Friday afternoon, almost four hours after hitting his 100th career homer.

Ross' three-run blast in the fourth inning (before a pair of rain delays lasting 93 minutes) helped lead the Cubs and Jon Lester to a 6-2 victory Friday.

"It was just my personal thing," Ross said. "It was nice to have a nice, round number. One hundred in The Show is pretty cool for me. But it affected the game and impacted the game, so it's even better. It wasn't just a blowout or a meaningless homer when you're down a bunch."

The Cubs have been counting down to 100 since last season and finally got to celebrate with "Grandpa Rossy," who sported a Papa Bear T-shirt after the game.

Joe Maddon gave Ross a bottle of wine and Lester gifted his personal catcher a bottle of champagne in a box signed by everybody on the roster.

"The boys were excited. I was excited," Ross said. "I think my favorite part while all this has been going on is rounding second base and looking in the dugout. Makes me smile every time seeing everybody so happy for me and counting down for me.

"They're as happy as I am, so that makes me feel good."

As soon as Ross made contact, he knew it was gone, slowly walking a few steps and uncharacteristically admiring it a bit before beginning his trot.

He got a curtain call, too, and he acknowledged hitting his 100th blast was extra special coming in front of the Cubs fanbase.

"I run down in the outfield before the game and ever since I hit 99, that's all I hear: 'Hit a homer, Grandpa,' I mean, nobody even knows my first name anymore," Ross joked.

"It was cool. There was even a David Ross sign a little girl had today. I mean, who doesn't like seeing that? Stuff like that is just really cool."

It was Ross' fourth homer of the season and he now has 17 RBI and an .828 OPS. Compare that to the 39-year-old's one homer, nine RBI and .519 OPS last season.

"It's awesome," Lester said. "Obviously, going into last year, we all knew where he was. I did. He'll admit: He didn't swing the bat like he wanted to last year.

"It's just nice to see him feel comfortable and be the old Rossy. I'm glad he did it. It's kinda nice he did it the day I was pitching to add a little bit to it."

Ross' 100th homer ball wound up glancing off the Nuveen sign in left field and wound up on Waveland. The fan that ended up with it only asked for a photo with Ross in return.

"Who wants a picture of me?!" Ross laughed. "I'm surprised he didn't ask for [Kris Bryant] or [Anthony Rizzo] or something like that. Again, yay me!"

White Sox change their minds, Chris Sale to start Sunday

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White Sox change their minds, Chris Sale to start Sunday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Robin Ventura changed his mind and Chris Sale will now face the Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon.

The White Sox manager announced his decision Friday afternoon, a little less than 24 hours after the club said it would keep its rotation in order following Thursday’s rainout. Rather than face Kansas City, the choice meant that Sale would have been pushed back and faced the New York Mets on Monday instead.

But as Ventura and his coaching staff discussed their options (he had five pages full of potential rotation options on Thursday), ultimately it made the most sense for Sale to face a divisional opponent. Sale is set to face Edinson Volquez in the series finale at 1:15 p.m.

“This is the better play,” Ventura said. “(Sale) didn’t throw very much the other day. We have a division team. A lot of things going into it. Just keep him on schedule and keep him pitching. It’s that simple.

“You play these guys a lot. They’re in your division. You have a chance for (Sale) to still go out there. You look at it with what he did the other day. It made a little more sense to have him go Sunday.”

Sale lost for the first time in 10 starts all season on Tuesday. He threw only 89 pitches against the Cleveland Indians, which has the White Sox comfortable with keeping him on schedule and working on a normal four days of rest instead of needing another.

“He was out of the game quicker than usual last time so we can do it,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “We feel good about Sale against anybody. Division team, that might have had something to do with it.”

The White Sox said Jose Quintana would start Monday against the Mets with Mat Latos on Tuesday and Friday’s starter, Miguel Gonzalez, throwing on Wednesday.

No matter what happens in Friday’s game, Ventura said he likely plans to stick with Carlos Rodon against the Royals on Saturday and Sale on Sunday.