Bulls to bring 'Big Sexy' back?

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Bulls to bring 'Big Sexy' back?

Derrick Rose was joking when he said, "I wish Kurt Thomas was younger" Thursday, but similar to how he feels about shooting guard Keith Bogans, he won't be all smiles if the league's oldest player isn't back in a Bulls uniform.

When Joakim Noah was sidelined, Thomas stepped in admirably, allowing young reserves Taj Gibson and Omer Asik to develop into a formidable big-man duo off the bench. Thomas played tough (if not frequently airborne) interior defense, subtly setting hard, effective screens and even occasionally contributing on offense with his accurate mid-range jumper.

Thomas was seen as a veteran locker-room presence and insurance for the team's inside depth, but in addition to being one of the most popular players among his teammates and filling in ably for Noah, he's also one of coach Tom Thibodeau's favorites, going back with the coach to their days together in New York.

Whether Thomas is re-signed or not will probably come down to money, but if he isn't back in Chicago -- privately his preference, as he enjoyed his time in the Windy City and believes the Bulls are close to winning a title -- don't be shocked if he makes a return to the Big Apple, as the Knicks reportedly covet him as a backup to injury-prone All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire.

So, as much as Rose wishes he could have played with the younger version of Thomas -- one of the few players in the NBA to experience the last lockout -- he'll settle for one more campaign with the current model.

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Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Coyotes: Nick Schmaltz shines on 21st birthday

The Blackhawks were finally getting healthy and now may be missing a key player once again. That depends on how Niklas Hjalmarsson feels after suffering an upper-body injury against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.

It was certainly the toughest part of the Blackhawks' victory, a 6-3 triumph that has the Blackhawks closing in on the Wild. We'll see what the Hjalmarsson update is over the weekend. Until then, let's look at the notables from this one.

What Worked: The offense. We'll give an honorable mention to the penalty kill, which snuffed out all of the Coyotes' chances including a double minor that overlapped the second and third periods. But the offense was just buzzing again. Here's another shocker: the top line is still working just fine. The trio got things started with Nick Schmaltz's goal just 37 seconds into the game (Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik assisted). And much like in their meeting with the Coyotes earlier this month, the Blackhawks needed just about every bit of that offense. While we're on this topic...

What Didn't Work: The first-period defense. The Blackhawks looked like they were in good shape up 3-1 but then they gave up two goals within a minute late in the period. Michal Rozsival had a rough start in his first game since Jan. 15, but overall, the Blackhawks' defense through that first period looked discombobulated. Obviously, it didn't help that the Blackhawks lost Hjalmarsson during the first, either.

[RELATED: Patrick Kane nets hat trick as Blackhawks cruise past Coyotes]

Star of the game: Patrick Kane. One game after Jonathan Toews recorded a hat trick Kane did the same, scoring his 21st, 22nd and 23rd goals of the season. On a night in which the Blackhawks dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen, Kane got a little extra playing time. His first goal came on a first-period shift with Ryan Hartman and Tanner Kero, the second off a long pass from Brent Seabrook and the third with his usual line mates.

He Said It: "I didn't play much before I got hurt, then I missed four weeks with my injury. It wasn't easy but definitely the way the team's playing now, it made it easier for me. It felt like the first game of the season for me but glad we got the victory and glad I was back playing. I enjoyed it." — Michal Rozsival on returning to the Blackhawks' lineup. 

By the Numbers: 

6 – Number of times, in their last eight games, the Blackhawks have scored five or more goals.

342 – Assists for Jonathan Toews, who tied Dennis Hull for 12th all-time in franchise history in that category.

35 – Combined points for the Blackhawks' top liners Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik in their nine games together. The breakdown in those nine games: Toews has 16 points, Panik 10 and Schmaltz nine.

1997 – The last time the Blackhawks had hat tricks in back-to-back regular-season games. Alexei Zhamnov and Eric Daze had them on April 11 and April 13, 1997, respectively.