Illini LB Brown named finalist for Butkus Award

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Illini LB Brown named finalist for Butkus Award

Jonathan Brown brought a ray of sunshine to an otherwise gloomy Illinois defense on Monday. The junior was announced as one of 12 semi-finalists for the Butkus award for his outstanding play at linebacker this season.
"It's a great honor to be a semifinalist. Hopefully I can keep playing at a high level and win," Brown said with a smile on Monday.
That the Illinois junior has played well enough to be among the semi-finalists this year is rather amazing. For the past few weeks Brown has not been able to perform at his peak because of injury.
Illinois coach Tim Beckman called Browns ability to gut it out and stay on the playing field, courageous.
He hasnt been 100 percent, you can see that on filmbut hes stepped up and tried to do what he is capable of doing to help us win football games, he said.
Brown acknowledged he has been less than his best this year, but expects to be at or near his best in Illinois final five games.
Me personally, Ive been banged up. I havent been as explosive as I can be, he said. Its been a challenge the past couple of weeks, but that doesnt matter anymore. Ive moved past it and Im feeling good right now. Im excited to get back on the field.
Im good to play, thats all that matters to me. This week got me closer to 100 percent. You cant go through the Big Ten season at 100 percent; youll always have a bruise or something. Thats how the game is played, he added.
Brown added that some of his, and the entire defenses, issues (aside from injury) have come as a result of the coaching and personnel changes from last year to this year. He did not use that as an excuse, however, and asserted that the defense would be much improved beginning with Illinois game against Indiana on Saturday.
So far this year Brown has amassed 44 tackles, including 1.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. He has forced a fumble and recovered a fumble as well. In the 2011 season Brown had a total of 108 tackles, with six sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss.
The Butkus award, named for Dick Butkus, the legendary Illinois and Chicago Bears linebacker, honors the nations best high school, collegiate and professional linebackers annually. The collegiate winner will be announced on December 4.

Chicago native Brandon McCoy returns home for McDonald's All-American Game

Chicago native Brandon McCoy returns home for McDonald's All-American Game

The 2017 McDonald's All-American Game will be without an Illinois high school basketball player for the second consecutive year.

While the local drought for elite IHSA talent continues, this year's McDonald's game at least has a Chicago native in the mix as 7-foot big man Brandon McCoy is returning home to participate in the game.

A native of the West Side of the city, McCoy moved to San Diego during his middle school years, but he still has a lot of family and friends in Chicago supporting him.

A five-star prospect who is deciding between Arizona, Michigan State, Oregon and UNLV, McCoy has already been back to Chicago once during his high school career to compete at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament as a junior.

McCoy will take the floor with the West Team at the United Center tonight as he's one of six uncommitted prospects in the game.

Ryan Hartman returns for Blackhawks vs. Penguins

Ryan Hartman returns for Blackhawks vs. Penguins

PITTSBURGH — Ryan Hartman has played on the right side of that line for most of this season. Now back in the lineup, he knows he has to stay on it.

Hartman will play after missing Monday's game as a healthy scratch when the Blackhawks face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. Hartman took a few bad penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct, against the Florida Panthers last weekend, so he sat vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning. The rookie knows he has to get back to the more disciplined hockey he's played most of the season. 

"I don't change my game. I think you take the message and deliver the message," Hartman said. "Obviously, no one likes to not play, everyone wants to play games and no one likes to sit out games. It's definitely something that I took to heart. I'm just going to go out there and just try to play like I've been playing and get on the scoresheet. Just stay off it for the wrong reasons."

Coach Joel Quenneville said Hartman has to stay on the right side of the line.

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"Know there are boundaries and sometimes you get watched a little bit more," Quenneville said. "The way they're calling the game, the way it's being officiated, be respectful. You still have to be hard to play against and find that limit, how far you can push it but you get a good feel on that early in games."

The Penguins are on a three-game winless streak (0-2-1) and are dealing with some injuries. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that, while Evgeni Malkin (shoulder) is close to returning, he won't play against the Blackhawks.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports app
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks lines

Nick Schmaltz-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Tanner Kero-Patrick Kane
Ryan Hartman-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
John Hayden-Dennis Rasmussen-Tomas Jurco

Defensive pairs 

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Johnny Oduya-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries 

Artem Anisimov (left leg)

Penguins lines

Conor-Sheary-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust
Chris Kunitz-Nick Bonino-Patric Hornqvist
Scott Wilson-Carter Rowney-Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl-Oskar Sundqvist-Josh Archibald

Defensive pairs

Brian Dumoulin-Justin Schultz
Ian Cole-Chad Ruhwedel
Cameron Gaunce-Mark Streit

Goaltender

Marc-Andre Fleury

Injuries

Evgeni Malkin (shoulder), Trevor Daley (knee), Daniel Sprong (shoulder), Jake Guentzel (concussion), Olli Maatta (hand), Kris Letang (upper body), Carl Hagelin (foot), Ron Hainsey (upper body)