Konroyd: Desperation factor has Hawks on a safer ledge

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Konroyd: Desperation factor has Hawks on a safer ledge

The Blackhawks played their best game of this first round on Saturday night. They're mad that they waited until Game 5 to finally bring it together as a team. That's the bad news.

The good news is that they have been playing a little better in each and every game of this series. Some might call it the 'desperation factor' that has improved their play of late. I liken it to hanging by your fingers on a window ledge with a Coyote gnawing at your knuckles. The Hawks know there are no do-overs and if they let up just a bit, they'll lose their grip and fall out of this series.

But these kind of situations get your attention and get you focused. Knowing that any mistake you make on the ice might send you home for the summer is pretty sobering. There's a focus and purpose to Chicago's game that wasn't there just a couple of games ago.

Enthusiasm and energy have replaced doom and gloom. A lot of experts were looking to the core when Chicago went down 3-1 in the series. And let's face it, to whom much is given, much is expected. So without Marian Hossa, the top-3 in Chicago -- Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp -- had combined for just two goals in the first four games. But to be fair, the top-3 for Phoenix -- Radim Vrbata, Ray Whitney and Shane Doan -- had combined for the same number of goals. This has been a series that has been decided in the trenches and won with the lunchpail crew. Michael Frolik, Bryan Bickell, Antoine Vermette and Mikkel Boedker are names you don't associate with postseason scoring.

Fortunately for the Blackhawks a lot of that changed when Toews decided to make sure he got his team to play another game. So now, heading into Game 6, the Blackhawks just got a couple of more fingers back on that window ledge.

89 Days to Kickoff: Vernon Hills

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89 Days to Kickoff: Vernon Hills

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Vernon Hills

Head coach: Bill Bellecomo

Assistant coaches: Corey Atwell, Greg Stilling, Tim Dydo, Jason Czarnecki, Avelino Cortez, Brian Palmer, Mike Larsen, Dave Schroetter

How they fared in 2016: 10-4 (3-2 Central Suburban North), lost to Peoria in the IHSA Class 5A state title game.

[MORE: 90 Days to Kickoff - Morris]

2017 regular season schedule:

Aug. 25 – Grayslake North

Sept. 1 – @ Zion-Benton

Sept. 8 – Rolling Meadows

Sept. 15 - @ Hoffman Estates

Sept. 22 - Highland Park

Sept. 28 – @ Deerfield

Oct. 6 - Maine West

Oct. 13 - @ Maine East

Oct. 20 - Glenbrook North

Biggest storyline: Can the Cougars make another deep run in Class 5A?

Names to watch this season: Senior WR/DB Max Lyle, senior OL/DL Danny Lester and senior LB Kyle Fasbinder

Biggest holes to fill: The Cougars will need to reload in particular on the offensive side of the football with just three starters back from a season ago.

EDGY's early take: The Cougars had a great run in 2016 and while several key starters have graduated, Vernon Hills still has some gas left in the tank. Getting off to a strong early start could be a big key in 2017 as the Cougars schedule is tough especially early on in 2017.

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.

With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.

Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.

“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”

Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.

[MORE: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?

Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.

“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.

“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”