With Hinrich hurt, Teague ready for his moment

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With Hinrich hurt, Teague ready for his moment

Bulls starting point guard Kirk Hinrich exited Saturday nights home win over the Timberwolves with 1:18 left in the second quarter, never to return. Hinrich suffered a strained right hip and while his status moving forward is uncertain, the veterans absence from the starting lineup isn't a huge concern as of yet.
Thats because backup point guard Nate Robinson once again stepped up with a stellar performance in reliefsans his five turnoversscoring 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting and sparking a Bulls team that struggled offensively in the 89-80 victory. But Robinson is unlikely to play all 48 minutes of games until Hinrich returns, meaning 19-year-old rookie Marquis Teague must see some action in reserve.
The little-used Indianapolis native scored his first regular-season NBA points Saturday, on an aggressive driving layup immediately after checking into the game late in the third quarter, so he has that milestone out of the way. Now, assuming Hinrich has to miss any amount of time, hes tasked with having to be a productive contributor in non-blowout situations.
If hes in that locker room, he can play and Ive been very pleased with what hes done in practice. He gets there early, hes been working hard, hes practicing well, so I felt that when his opportunity would come, I had a good feeling about him performing well, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game. Hes done a good job, hes got an opportunity to improve, hes been performing well. I thought he had that one drive that was terrific. He attacked the basket, using speed, finished strongly. Hes got to continue to do that.
Added Robinson: "He's young, but he's learning. He has a great group of guys here to help him out. He'll be just fine."
As for Teague himself, he played it nonchalant afterwards, as if hes used to throngs of reporters hounding him for quotes after NBA games. But on a serious note, the former University of Kentucky point guard did try to assert himself on the court and has made real progress since the long-ago days of the preseason, let alone the NBAs summer league in Las Vegas.
I felt pretty comfortable. Its just basketball. Im just going out doing what Thibs asks me to do, just trying to play under control, Teague said. It felt good. Get a bucket in, just to help my team.
Im just paying attention to what Kirk and Nate do, watching everything they do, its helping me out, and I feel like Im developing a lot, he added. I wasnt really overwhelmed. I was comfortable. I felt like I was ready to come out there and play, and help my team win.
The younger brother of Atlanta Hawks starting point guard Jeff Teaguehimself appearing to be on the verge of having a breakout seasonis starting to understand Thibodeaus edict of young players learning how to be a professional, which is reflected in his work ethic. Teague can often be seen at the Berto Center after practice, working on his outside jumper with assistant coachesparticularly shooting guru Ron Adamsor getting advice from his teammates.
A lot of early mornings and late nights, just staying in the gym constantly, trying to show people you can play at this level, he explained. Everybodys been helping, talking to me. Thats why I love this team, such great guys on this team.

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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.