Bulls face off against Rockets on CSN

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Bulls face off against Rockets on CSN

The Bulls continue their five-game circus road trip tonight when they travel to Houston to take on the new-look Rockets on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live.

Houston's core is perhaps as different from a year ago as any team in the league, as three newcomers have paced the way for a team that comes into tonight having lost three straight on a recent West coast road trip.

Chicago will match up with a familiar foe, but may not recognize his game when Omer Asik tips off. The 26-year-old center received a 25 million offer sheet from the Rockets this offseason, one the Bulls did not match. The two-year pro averaged a mere 2.9 games in two seasons with the Bulls, acting more as a defensive stopper with the second unit. He scored in double-digits six times in 148 games with the Bulls, but in his expanded role has done so seven times in 11 games with the Rockets. He also has crashed the glass well, ranking third in the NBA with 12.3 rebounds per game.

His career year has been matched by Joakim Noah, who will square off against his former complement in the front court. The fifth-year Noah is averaging career-highs in points (14.8), free throw percentage (80.7 percent), assists (4.0), blocks (2.0) and steals (1.3). It's a sure bet that Noah will want to win tonight's matchup, both to get the Bulls back on track and to knock Asik's confidence down some.

Asik isn't the only Rocket who has succeeded in a bigger role, as James Harden ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring (24.2 points per game). Out of the shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Harden has exploded in a leading role, as his numbers across the board are as good as they've been in his four-year career. He has cooled down from his red-hot start to the season, when he scored 37 and 45 points to start the season. He'll be on the Bulls' radar, and Jimmy Butler may once again be asked to make Harden work for his shots.

The Rockets' other posion-pill offer sheet was to Jeremy Lin, who signed with Houston after New York declined to match in the offseason. Lin has produced mixed results through 11 games. His numbers are down from his magical season a year ago, but he's still producing as a passer (6.6 assists) and is seventh in the league at 2.0 steals per game. His shooting numbers are way down, and Kirk Hinrich's defense should prove to be a tough task, as Lin has shot better than 40 percent from the field just twice.

The Rockets are 10th in the league in points per game, but just 24th in field goal percentage. They make a living from beyond the arc, hitting 8.7 3-pointers per game. Lin and Harden have contributed, but second-year small forward Chandler Parsons leads the team with 2.3 makes per game. The Bulls rank 8th in defensive 3-point field goal percentage, making this an aspect of tonight's game to keep an eye on. If the Bulls can hold the Rockets from beyond the arc, it will go a long way toward a victory.

Having scored 80 and 94 points their last two games -- both losses -- it's apparent the Bulls' road trip is beginning to take its toll. But the Rockets are allowing more than 100 points per game, 27th in the league, so the Bulls have a chance to get back on track tonight on Comcast SportsNet.

Today on CSN: White Sox face Athletics in spring training game

Today on CSN: White Sox face Athletics in spring training game

The White Sox will battle the Oakland Athletics today, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins at 3:05 p.m.

Today's starting pitching matchup: Carlos Rodon vs. Kendall Graveman

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Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

It wasn't pretty, but the Blackhawks found a way to pick up another two points and improved to 6-0-1 over their last seven games, and 18-3-1 over their last 22.

With Minnesota's loss to Philadelphia, the Blackhawks have taken an eight-point lead for first in the Central Division and are only two points away from the Washington Capitals for home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.

Let's take a look at Quick Hits from the 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night:

What Worked: The finish and shootout. While the Blackhawks scored the game's first goal, it was another slow start by a team that has had a few of those over the last several outings and has preached working on turning in more of a complete effort. They recorded only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods, and it took more than six minutes after Patrick Kane's goal to record their next one.

But they finished on a positive note yet again, and went 2-for-3 in the shootout thanks to Kane and Artemi Panarin, who potted the game winner. Kane said after the game that he tried his move on Scott Darling during morning skate and it worked. So he went with it tonight in an effort to snap a mini shootout drought and he did.

What Didn't Work: Controlling the puck. The Blackhawks seemingly have the puck more than their opponent does almost every game, but it doesn't reflect in the shot department because they often look for the perfect pass or shot and fail to record one at all. They had 50 shot attempts with 26 of them on goal compared to the Stars' 64 attempts with 44 on goal. They know they must get better at that.

Star of the game: Corey Crawford. After allowing four goals on only 10 shots in Tuesday's overtime loss to Vancouver, the Blackhawks netminder bounced back in a huge way. He matched a season-high with 42 saves, and recorded his 30th win of the season.

He Said It: "He played amazing tonight. Reason we won the game. Hats off to him, he's done that a lot this year. For a goalie it's probably tough to show up every night, even the goals he let in last game you can't put all the blame on him, but he was outstanding tonight." — Kane on Crawford's performance

By the Numbers:

167 — Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked one shot in the win, and it was enough to set a new career high in that department, previously established during the 2010-11 campaign (166).

15 — Trevor van Riemsyk assisted on Marian Hossa's goal in the third period, giving him a career-high 15 points on the season in 50 games. He had 14 points in 82 games last year. He also extended his point streak to three games.

6 — With the victory, Crawford has earned at least 30 wins in six of his seven NHL seasons as a full-time starter. The only time he didn't reach that mark was during the lockout-shortened year in 2012-13 when he went 19-5-5.