Shaw's status for Tuesday up in the air

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Shaw's status for Tuesday up in the air

GLENDALE, Ariz. Andrew Shaw stood in the Blackhawks locker room, fielding the obvious questions after his hit on Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith on Saturday night. Whether hell have to answer for it from the NHL remains to be seen.

Shaw was assessed a five-minute charging and a game misconduct for his hit on Smith, who was down for several moments and then popped up and finished the game in the Blackhawks 4-3 overtime victory over Phoenix. Smith was prone for a few moments, as Shaw was sent to the penalty box and, soon after, to the locker room.

Then Smith got up and told trainers that he could finish the game. Afterward, Smith, through the Coyotes media relations department, said, I feel fine. Im 100 percent.

And then, of course, there was the inevitable he saidhe said on what happened.

I went back to play the puck and I didnt see him coming, Smith said via Coyotes PR. I dont have eyes in the back of my head.

Coach Joel Quenneville said, I think (Shaw) was trying to avoid contact. Its a tough call. He was playing well again, too.

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said the league will look at that. Obviously thats contact at the head and it doesnt matter if its a goaltender or a player. Thats blind-side contact to the head.

Shaw said he didnt mean to do it.

He went to play the puck and his stick came up toward my face so I tried to get out of the way of it. Unfortunately I made contact. I didnt try to hit him but unfortunately I did, Shaw said. Im just glad hes OK and he could finish the game.

When Smith was down, it looked like he wouldnt be able to keep playing. Backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera came out onto the ice and stretched, seemingly in preparation to relieve Smith. Nevertheless, Shaws night was over.

I dont know if it came down to whether the officials thought Smith was going to stay in the game or not. Obviously they thought he was done and thats probably why he got the 5-minute penalty, Jonathan Toews said. From what I saw, Shaw wasnt going in there trying to take his head off. From what I saw, he was trying to avoid contact and that was unfortunate that it happened.

Whether or not Shaw hears from the league on the hit is unknown right now. The Blackhawks dont play again until Tuesday, so if there is anything it doesnt have to be decidedbe announced until Monday.

I dont know. Well see what happens, Shaw said. Its just unfortunate. Im just glad hes OK.

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Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Living well is indeed the best revenge, and sometimes nothing feels sweeter than proving doubters wrong. Akiem Hicks is savoring that exact feeling.

When the New Orleans Saints made Hicks their third-round pick in the 2013 draft, they typecast their big (6-5, 318 pounds) young defensive lineman as a one-trick pony.

“There were people in New Orleans that said, ‘You can’t rush the passer,’” Hicks recalled after the Bears’ win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. “They told me from my rookie year, ‘You’re going to be a run-stopper.’”

This despite Hicks collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups as a senior at Regina in Canada. The Saints forced Hicks into the slot they’d decided he fit – nose tackle – then eventually grew disenchanted with him and traded him to New England last year – where he collect 3 sacks in spot duty.

Interestingly, Bears GM Ryan Pace was part of the Saints’ personnel operation. Whether Pace agreed with coaches’ handling of Hicks then isn’t known, but when Pace had the chance to bring Hicks to Chicago for a role different than the one the Saints forced Hicks into, Pace made it happen.

Pace likely saw those New England sacks as a foreshadowing or a sign that the New Orleans staff had miscast Hicks. The Bears defensive end now is under consideration for NFC defensive player of the week after his 10-tackle performance against San Francisco. Signing with the Bears last March 13 as a free agent was the career break Hicks has craved. For him it was a career lifeline.

“They have given me the ability to go rush the passer,” Hicks said. “So I love this organization – [GM] Ryan Pace, coach Fox, Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] – for just giving a guy the capability to put it out there and do what you feel like you can do.”

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Hicks has been showing what he can do, to quarterbacks. For him the best part of win over the 49ers was the two third-quarter sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Those sacks gave the massive lineman, who the Saints said couldn’t rush the passer, 6 sacks for the season – more than any member of the Saints defense this season. It has been a classic instance of putting a player in position to maximize his skills, not jam someone into a bad fit.

“Akiem has been in a couple of different types of packages before with New Orleans and New England,” said coach John Fox. The Patriots switched from a long-time 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 but “we’re more of a New England-type style. But we’re playing him more at end; he played mostly a nose tackle [in New Orleans]. He’s fit really well for us as far as his physical stature.

"But he does have pass rush ability. It shows a little about his athleticism. So he’s got a combination of both.”

That “combination” has been allowed to flourish at a new level, and the Bears’ plan for Hicks was the foundation of why he wanted to sign in Chicago as a free agent. The Bears do not play their defensive linemen in a clear one-gap, get-upfield-fast scheme tailored to speed players. Nor do they play a classic two-gap, linemen-control-blockers scheme typically built on three massive space-eaters on the defensive line.

They play what one player has called a “gap and a half” system, which requires being stout as well as nimble.

One Hicks rush on Kaepernick featured a deft spin move out of a block, not the norm for 336-pound linemen. He got one sack with a quick slide out of a double-team.

“I’m not freelancing,” Hicks said. “But I’m rushing ‘fast.’ There’s a portion of the defense where you have the [run] responsibility and don’t have the freedom or liberty [to rush]. It’s a great system for me and I love what they’ve let me do.”