NHL lockout comes to an end

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NHL lockout comes to an end

Updated: 8:40 p.m. CT

After months' worth of drama, rhetoric, talking and not talking, the NHL and NHLPA have finally agreed to a deal that will salvage part of the 2012-13 season.

The two sides agreed to a tentative 10-year collective bargaining agreement, according to reports, ending a lockout that swallowed up much of the 2012-13 schedule. The deal, which was reached a little before 4 a.m. CT, came after a marathon negotiation session that went more than 16 hours in New York.

Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr spoke to the media briefly this morning.

"We've reached an agreement on framework of the CBA, the details of which need to be put to paper," Bettman told reporters. "We've got to dot a lot of 'Is' to cross a lot of 'Ts,' but basically the framework has been agreed upon. We have to go through ratification process. The board of governors and players will have to approve. We'e not in the position to give any information. Well be back to you very shortly, hopefully later today, with more information."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, via text, was "really happy" that the lockout was finally over.

"A lot of credit goes to the players who were in the bargaining sessions and worked very hard to get a deal done," Toews said. "I'm excited to play hockey again, although it's bittersweet because a lot of damage was done to our game. As players we need to keep showing our fans we care. We might have a long road ahead of us there, but for now it's great to know well be back on the ice very soon."

RELATED: Range of emotions emerge as lockout comes to an end

Now its a matter of when training camp and the regular season will begin. Its most likely to be a 48-game regular-season, although its still possible to squeeze in 50. Many athletes who were playing with European teams are working to return home. Patrick Kane, who played the past few months for EHC Biel in Switzerland, is headed home according to agent Pat Brisson.

He's home tomorrow, Brisson said via email. He is very excited and looking forward to play.
"Hopefully, in a very few days, fans can get back to watching people who are skating and not the two of us.-- Donald Fehr, on the end of the NHL lockoutCSNPhillys Tim Panaccio, who was in New York for the negotiations, reported that the 2013-14 salary cap, will be 64.3 million. The league originally wanted it to be 60 million and wasnt budging on that for some time. The cap floor will be 44 million. For 2013-14, the Blackhawks currently have 57.2 million of cap payroll spent on 17 players.

The cap for the remainder of this season is 70.2 million. And players' maximum length of contracts is now reportedly seven years (eight if the player is re-signing with his current team).

One of the first people Bettman thanked was federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, who was a key component in these negotiations down the stretch. Beckenbaugh, who had had several fruitless meetings with the two sides in the past, helped bridge the gap between the league and NHLPA this weekend. Beckenbaugh spent about 13 hours on Friday going between the two groups before they all got together on Saturdayearly Sunday.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service director George H. Cohen recognized Beckenbaugh in a statement early today.

"I want to recognize the extraordinary contribution that my colleague, Scot Beckenbaugh, Deputy Director for Mediation Services, made in providing assistance of the highest caliber to the parties throughout the most critical periods in the negotiations," Cohen said.

Said Beckenbaugh declined comment to reporters, other than to say, "I'm as famous as I want to be."

Dates for training campsregular-season starts have not yet been announced. And Fehr, standing with Bettman, probably echoed the sentiments of many with his closing statement to reporters.

"Hopefully, in a very few days, fans can get back to watching people who are skating and not the two of us," he said.

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

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USA TODAY

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

It's not something that's been said often over the decades, but Northwestern is one of the best teams in the Big Ten.

That's the story the standings tell, and with another week of the 2016-17 season in the books, the Wildcats sit at 5-2 in conference play, good for the second-best mark in the league.

That fifth conference win came Sunday afternoon with a 74-72 defeat of Ohio State. It was the first time Northwestern won in Columbus since 1977.

This is the first 5-2 start to Big Ten play for the Cats since 1968. So is this the first time ever the Cats get an invite to the NCAA tournament?

Of course that remains to be seen, but Chris Collins' squad sure seems to be setting itself up for inclusion in the field of 68. Sunday's win was just the latest to come away from Evanston, and in seven conference games, four of the team's five wins have come in road games, including three straight at Nebraska, Rutgers and Ohio State.

Northwestern had to find a way to win Sunday. A couple surges in the first half took the Cats from modest deficits to a lead that grew as big as eight. The halftime advantage was five, but that slipped away quickly as Northwestern shot poorly after halftime. Ice cold is a better descriptor, the Cats struggling to get their field-goal percentage above 30 percent over the final 20 minutes. It got there eventually, the team finishing shooting 32.3 percent in the second half, but it was the work from the free-throw line that made the win possible. Over the final 20 minutes, Northwestern was 14-for-16 from the charity stripe, including going 11-for-12 over the final minute and a half.

The key stretch came when a Scottie Lindsey 3-ball broke a 56-all tie with four and a half minutes to play. Ohio State countered with a bucket, but freshman point guard Isiah Brown turned in back-to-back scores of his own, the second a breakaway layup off a steal. That made it a five-point lead, and though the gap shrunk over the game's final three minutes, Northwestern's free-throw shooting allowed the Cats to hold that lead the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes shot themselves in the foot at the free-throw line. They were 12-for-23 on the game, and all but one of the attempts came in the second half, making for 10 missed free throws over the game's final 20 minutes. Northwestern committed a lot of fouls, but Ohio State couldn't capitalize, something that has to be quite painful for the Buckeyes, considering they had edges in other statistical categories. They shot 45.6 percent from the field compared to the Cats shooting 37.5 percent. Ohio State also had 16 second-chance points and 28 points in the paint. But Northwestern had 17 points off 13 Ohio State turnovers.

Lindsey finished with a game-high 21 points and has scored in double figures in every game this season. Bryant McIntosh had 17 points, and Vic Law had 10. Jae'Sean Tate scored 14 points for Ohio State, with JaQuan Lyle adding 13, Trevor Thompson scoring 11 and Cam Williams putting in 10.

The win was Northwestern's fourth straight and boosted its overall record to 16-4 to go along with the 5-2 mark in the conference. The Cats next play Nebraska on Thursday.

The loss snapped a modest two-game win streak for Ohio State and dropped the Buckeyes' record to 12-8 overall and 2-5 in the Big Ten. They next play Minnesota on Wednesday.

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.

“Obviously [I want to] get back and playing the same way,” Kruger said. “First I want to get healthy and then get back playing my best and do everything I can for the team.”