Despite loss, Wolverines will be fine

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Despite loss, Wolverines will be fine

If youre worried about Jabari Parker and the Simeon Wolverines after Thursday nights nationally televised loss to DeSoto, dont be. It looks bad that the No. 1 team in the nation has already fallen, but its not nearly as bad when considering the circumstances behind it.
Simeon hasnt played a game since Dec. 1, a stretch of 11 days without any serious competition. But for DeSoto, it was their 15th contest of the 2012-13 season. It was obvious the Wolverines weren't in sync as a team because they dont have many games under their belt.
Simeon trailed 27-24 at halftime, but scored just five points and shot 1-of-15 from the field in the third quarter. The inability to put the ball in the basket allowed DeSoto to jump out to a 43-29 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Name the last time that has happened to a team coached by Robert Smith.
Early in the final quarter, the Wolverines 2-2-1 full-court zone press turned DeSoto over to get them back in the game. It also had Simeon looking like a team that has won three consecutive Illinois State Championships and features four players going to high-major college programs next season, one of which is an All-American and the No. 2 player in the country.
So what appeared to be missing on Thursday night is actually there; its just going to take more games to put it together. 
Also consider that the DeSoto game was Jabari Parkers second in the last five months.
Parker is still a ways away from being the player he was last year, all the way up until his foot injury in late July. It will take time to shake off the rust and the weight and become the superstar fans are used to seeing on the court.
The good thing is the Wolverines wont have another layoff of that length, as their schedule picks up with enough games in succession to help them get their rhythm back as a team. On Saturday they play a game in Memphis and then come back to Chicago for games next week.
On Monday theyll face off against Carver on the road, then its back home for a game on Wednesday against Larry Hawkins, and Friday they host Brooks. That caps a stretch of five games in eight days that should be enough to have Parker looking like more like the All-American that he is and, as a group, have the Wolverines ready for the 2012 Pontiac Holiday Tournament taking place Dec. 27 though 29.
This early season loss isnt the end of the world for Simeon. It's just an unfortunate bump in the road to a potential national championship due to scheduling that has them trying to catch up with teams whose seasons have already started and who have a better sense of continuity on the court.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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