Toews, Montador skate; still no timetable on return

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Toews, Montador skate; still no timetable on return

Jonathan Toews skated for the fourth consecutive day and Steve Montador joined his teammates this morning as the Chicago Blackhawks prepared for tonights game against the Los Angeles Kings.

Toews (concussion) was already out for tonights game but is still hoping to play Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues. A few things need to happen before then, however; the captain has not yet been cleared for contact and said hes still not feeling 100 percent.

Im getting closer and closer as far as how I feel injury wise but definitely could tell the conditioning needs some work, Toews said. Every time we play a game I hope for that game. Im not thinking about missing the game on Tuesday but Im more focused on how this practice went and what I have to do the rest of the day.

Montador (concussion) joined the Blackhawks for the first time since getting injured against the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 7. He was skating on his own a few weeks back but was off the ice recently.

I dont call them setbacks, Montador said. When youre coming back after 3-4 weeks off and then skating again, sometimes you need to take some time off. Just because Im not skating doesnt mean Im not working out and training and stuff.

Its been a trying time for Montador, who has missed the last 15 games.

Coming back from an injury, and certainly one Ive never been out for this long during the regular season, its a challenge, he said. You feel like youre getting ready and then you take some time off. Theres some psychological and emotional turbulence that goes with it. Its certainly a challenge but the overall trend has been solid, which is exciting for me.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks will prepare for a Kings team which has lost two in a row. The Kings are currently 11th in the Western Conference.

Ray Emery will start in goal for the Blackhawks. Emery has just three career games against the Kings, with a 1-0-0 record.

Coach K, on Chicago welcoming back Tom Thibodeau: 'I'm proud of my city for doing that'

Coach K, on Chicago welcoming back Tom Thibodeau: 'I'm proud of my city for doing that'

Tom Thibodeau made his long-awaited return to the United Center on Friday, and the reception he received from the Chicago crowd pleased USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Thibodeau, who's been an assistant with USA Basketball since 2013, was the first coach introduced before the team's matchup against Venezuela and received considerable applause from the sellout crowd. It was Thibodeau's first visit back to Chicago in a coaching capacity since he was fired as the Bulls head coach following the 2014-15 season.

Both Krzyzewski and Jimmy Butler, who spoke at the podium following USA's 80-45 victory, were asked about the reaction from the crowd. Krzyzewski, a Chicago native, took the question and fired off a 90-second response about how the warm reception was warranted and how pleased he was to hear it.

He even joked that he and assistants Jim Boeheim and Monty Williams paid 5,000 fans to cheer when Thibodeau, now the head coach of the Timberwolves, was introduced.

"(Chicago's) an amazing sports town, loves its athletes and its coaches, and they should love Tom. Tom brought great basketball (to Chicago) when it was not going well," Krzyzewski said. "And then really injury-wise...especially with Derrick (Rose), if he had been healthy there could have been another (NBA championship) banner or two here. And the fans realize that."

Thibodeau arrived in Chicago in 2010, coaching a Bulls team that had advanced to the playoffs the previous season for the first time since 1998. He coached the Bulls to a 255-139 record in five seasons and won 23 playoff games. His team advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, the same year the Bulls won 62 games and Thibodeau was named NBA Coach of the Year.

[MORE: Why Jimmy Butler wanted Dwyane Wade to sign with the Bulls]

In that five-year span Rose, who was named the league's youngest MVP in 2011, missed 213 of a possible 394 games, and the team dealt with myriad injuries to key players in Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol. Irreconcilable differences within the front office led to Thibodaeu's dismissal, but Thibodeau said Thursday that he was grateful for the eperiences he had during this time in Chicago.

And Krzyzewski reiterated how pleased he was that the fans understood the successes Thibodeau acheived.

"He’s the best, as far as preparation and team player and whatever, and the fans appreciate that," Krzyzewski said. "It was great. I love the fact that my town gave the guy who gave them his heart and soul for the number of years he’s been here and acknowledged that. That’s a great thing. I’m proud of my city for doing that."

Joe Maddon hints Cubs could have spot starter soon

Joe Maddon hints Cubs could have spot starter soon

Joe Maddon hinted that the Cubs could have a spot starter soon to give his regular five some rest.

The Cubs manager said it's "possible" the player could start as early as Sunday in the Cubs' series finale against the Seattle Mariners.

Maddon would not confirm who the pitcher would be, but he said the move will happen within the organization and not via trade.

"As we’ve talked about all along, attempting to try to give our regular five a rest in a particular moment, so we’re considering doing something right now," said Maddon on Saturday. "We’re not ready to announce it yet just to be honest, but we are considering."

Prior to the All-Star break, Maddon gave Adam Warren — who has since been traded to the New York Yankees as part of the Aroldis Chapman trade — a spot start to give his starters an extra day's rest.

As the second half of the season slowly winds down, Maddon knows how important rest will be moving forward, especially with the Cubs bound to be playing in October.

"When you get the opportunities, take advantage of it," he said.

Cubs starters hold a 3.24 ERA on the season, which is tied with the Washington Nationals for the league's best.

Kyle Hendricks leads the team and also has the third-best ERA in the MLB with 2.39.

Cubs' Anthony Rizzo gets day off vs. Mariners

Cubs' Anthony Rizzo gets day off vs. Mariners

Anthony Rizzo isn't in the lineup on Saturday afternoon as the Cubs battle the Seattle Mariners.

The Cubs first baseman is getting the day off. 

"He’s really been needing a day, so it just turned out really well for today," said manager Joe Maddon. "Day game and then a night game tomorrow actually gives him more of an extended time to rest. We rely on him so heavily all the time. It was just the right thing to do today."

Willson Contreras will be his replacement for the day.

Saturday is the first regular-season day off for Rizzo since June 5 — and first since the All-Star break nearly three weeks ago. 

“I think it’s important to give them time off, I really do," Maddon said. "I think it’s really unrealistic to expect high-end performance by pushing someone to 162 games. ...A guy like Rizz, maybe he needs five or six plus for regular off days in a year to really be productive consistently."

Maddon also stressed the fact that he wants to keep his players healthy and not overwork them.

"I don’t want to wait til a guy who gets hurt to need a day off," Maddon said. "I’d rather be proactive with that. I put out the feelers yesterday to ask around who’s going to be needing a day. So I have other ideas coming up possibly, but for today it was absolutely the right thing to do for Rizz."

Rizzo is batting .214/.250/.464 in 14 games after the break. His 24 homers and 79 RBIs are among the league's best.

Rizzo has missed three games this season, two of which were due to back stiffness.

"I think it’s wise to be proactive, physically and mentally to give them their rest," Maddon said. "I think you’re going to get a sharper performance on a more consistent basis."