Chicago Blackhawks

Don't look now, but the Spurs are red hot

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Don't look now, but the Spurs are red hot

From Comcast SportsNet SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Even shorthanded, the San Antonio Spurs keep finding ways to win. On Monday night, Richard Jefferson stepped up big. He hit a 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds left -- only his second field goal all night -- as the Spurs pulled out a 106-102 victory over the Utah Jazz. It was San Antonio's 11th straight win -- the longest streak in the NBA -- and the seventh consecutive on this nine-game road trip. San Antonio (23-9) hasn't lost on the road since Jan. 29 in Dallas. "I haven't been shooting the ball particularly well of late ... and even passed up one shot with about a minute to go," Richard Jefferson said. "But I was blessed the (3) went in." Tony Parker scored 23 points to lead the Spurs, who were without key players Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter , both expected to miss two weeks because of injury. "When you have guys that go down, I think sometimes it helps guys re-focus knowing you have less room for error," Jefferson said. "Everybody has to contribute." Without Splitter to provide a spark off the bench, Matt Bonner came through in the clutch with five 3-pointers. He finished with 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting. "Matty was great. Matty was key for us tonight," said Spurs forward Tim Duncan, who finished with 20 points. "He was able to spread the floor and hit some shots and continue to score points for us when we really needed it." Al Jefferson scored 20 points to lead the Jazz (15-16), who fell below .500 for the first time since Jan. 2, but he couldn't get a mid-range jumper to fall with 29 seconds left. Paul Millsap added 16 for Utah, and Devin Harris 15. Josh Howard, in the starting lineup because of an injury to shooting guard Raja Bell, had 12 points. San Antonio trailed by as many as eight points in the first half and 10 in the third quarter before rallying. "Persistence," Duncan said. "We stuck with it. They did make a (13-0) run. We came out in the second half and didn't play well for those first couple of minutes. They got themselves a lead, but we knew there was a lot of game left. It kind of shows the character of this team, how we've been playing over the last 10-15 games. We're really starting to turn that corner." The Jazz, forced to practice Monday morning despite arriving back from Houston at 12:30 a.m., played with much more intensity than they did in a blowout loss to Houston on Sunday. In the end, they still lost -- and have dropped seven of their past nine. "Tough loss," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I thought our guys fought hard, especially after last night. We had a chance at the end. We just didn't get the plays at the end." The Spurs led 56-53 at halftime, but the Jazz opened the second half on a 13-0 run. The Spurs fought back, with Bonner hitting his fifth 3-pointer and making three free throws after being fouled on his next 3-point attempt. And Parker had 11 assists to go with his 23 points. "Tony's an All-Star," Gregg Popovich said of his veteran guard. "He had another magnificent game -- scoring, finding people, playing tough, being a leader. He was good." The bad continues to be injuries for Ginobili. "It's killing him," Popovich said. "He just came back, played in a couple of games and was beginning to get in shape, get a rhythm and then he goes down again. He's pretty depressed about it. Hopefully the team can be over it and realize he and Tiago (Splitter) are going to gone for a while." Ginobili suffered a strained left oblique in Saturday's 103-100 victory at the Los Angeles Clippers. An MRI on Monday confirmed the injury to Ginobili, who had played just his fourth game since missing 22 with a broken left hand. He will remain in San Antonio for the remainder of the Spurs' road trip. Ginobili led the Spurs against the Jazz in the first meeting with 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting. Splitter, who had averaged 13 points off the bench in his previous five games, traveled with the team to Salt Lake City but also is out two weeks with a strained right calf. NOTES: Jazz great Karl Malone attended Monday's game just a few weeks after a very public spat with the organization and CEO Greg Miller. Afterward they met for about an hour in a closed-door session, though neither would discuss what was said. Earlier this month, Malone went off on the organization. He said he was forced to use a scalper to buy tickets for a game and also blamed the organization for coach Jerry Sloan's abrupt retirement last February, saying the Jazz had given guard Deron Williams -- now with the New Jersey Nets -- too much power. On Monday, Malone, with his son, shrugged off reporters but sat in the front row under the "home" basket next to a fan holding a colorful "Malone for President" sign. A security guard stood behind him. At halftime, Malone hugged coach Corbin and other members of the Jazz staff in the concourse, but was signing autographs when Miller walked by. Miller looked at him, and kept walking. After the game, Miller went over to Malone and the two chatted briefly before going behind closed doors "We talked," Malone said. "It's between us." ... Jazz SG Bell was inactive Monday after re-injuring his right adductor. It was the fourth game he missed because of the injury. The Jazz instead activated F DeMarre Carroll for the first time since signing him Feb. 8. ...The Spurs on Monday signed 6-9 rookie F Eric Dawson, a San Antonio native, to a 10-day contract. Dawson was averaging 15.9 points and 10.1 rebounds for Austin of the NBA Development League.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

It’s preseason: you don’t need a lot of build-up. Let’s just delve right in, shall we?

1. Lots of shots, but…

The same Joonas Korpisalo that the Blackhawks’ youngsters scored five goals against on Tuesday was on top of his game on Saturday. The Blackhawks peppered him with 54 shots but only two got through, and the second was a 6-on-4 power-play goal in the final two minutes.

“I thought we could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him," Nick Schmaltz said. "I thought we were playing along the outside. I mean we had some great looks. He made some big saves. Some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don’t.”

2. Bérubé’s Blackhawks debut.

Jean-François Bérubé had a tough sequence early in the second period, when he gave up two goals in a 28-second span. This was against a Columbus team that didn’t send many of their top players. He also didn’t see a ton of action in this one; the Blue Jackets fired just 21 shots his way.

3. Growing pains.

Alex DeBrincat had his up and down moments on Saturday night. His turnover led to Columbus’ first goal, he took a slashing penalty and he fought the puck quite a bit. You still saw glimpses of that skill, though, especially with his quick release. Hey, he’s a 19-year-old guy getting his first taste of the NHL. Nights like this are going to happen.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta be safe in certain areas and you learn from that.”

4. Slash-o-meter.

Four more were called on Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if that number starts dwindling sooner rather than later, though, because the edict has apparently changed already. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported earlier on Saturday that the league told officials to ease up on slashing and faceoff violations. But we all figure that’s going to happen once the regular season begins anyway, right?

5. Notre Dame bound.

The destination is familiar but the Blackhawks threw it into their second week of camp this season. It’ll be bonding time for the Blackhawks, who will send a smaller group for several practices there this week. Quenneville figures it’ll be a productive time. “We’ll get some bonding in, play golf together, have a nice outing, couple of road games and a nice campus.”

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

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USA TODAY

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

Nick Schmaltz seemed to be everywhere the puck was on Saturday night. Great pursuit of the puck, great passes to Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat and an all-around confidence that’s becoming more apparent by the game.

So has coach Joel Quenneville seen what he’s needed to from Schmaltz at second-line center?

“And more.”

It’s been a pretty impressive showing for Schmaltz this month. The 21-year-old has played in all three of the Blackhawks’ preseason games and keeps getting better in each one. The uncertainty Schmaltz understandably showed as a rookie is gone; the NHL game no longer feels uncomfortable.

“I feel like the game’s slowing down for me, just seeing plays,” Schmaltz said. “I know what I’m doing with the puck before I get it. It feels good and just trying to get better every day.”

Schmaltz and his fellow second liners didn’t connect for goals in the Blackhawks 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The three combined for 12 of the Blackhawks’ 54 shots on goal – Kane and DeBrincat each had five – and the chemistry continues to build between the three.

Jonathan Toews talked on Saturday morning of how much more relaxed Schmaltz looks with the puck now, and that was evident again later that night.

“He’s really starting to get comfortable physically at this level,” Toews said. “He thinks the game so well, puts himself in good spots, much like Kaner where he can skate with the puck and use his speed. He has his head up so he backs guys off. Those two were making great plays tonight and Brinksy was fitting in well. They couldn’t buy a goal but Schmaltzy’s getting better and better, and you’re’ seeing that calm poise that he has really come out the more he gets comfortable.”

Schmaltz was likely getting a second-line audition in some capacity this fall; the original thought was at left wing in the wake of Artemi Panarin’s trade. But Schmaltz has always felt at his best at center. He’s showing that. And more.

“It’s always fun to play no matter if it’s preseason or regular season," he said. "I’m always happy to play, especially when you’re playing with great players. I feel like I’m more comfortable in the middle, able to use my speed a little bit more, create more offense that way.

"I think it’s going well. Wherever I end up, I’ll be happy.”