Red Wings close in on record home winning streak

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Red Wings close in on record home winning streak

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Back on home ice -- where they have been unbeatable for three months -- the Detroit Red Wings closed in on an NHL record. Drew Miller and Henrik Zetterberg scored in the third period, and the Red Wings extended their home winning streak to 18 games with a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night. The Red Wings overcame two more goals by Edmonton's Sam Gagner to move within two wins of the NHL record of 20 straight home victories, set by the Boston Bruins during the 1929-30 season and matched by Philadelphia in 1976. The Bruins also won 19 in a row in Boston during the 1970-71 season. "The home win streak is really unique," Miller said. "I don't think we go into it really trying to say, Hey, let's do it to get this streak.' I think we're just trying to establish our game at home and play night in and night out the way that we should play." Detroit will either break the record or have its streak snapped on this homestand. Wednesday's game was the first of six in a row at home for the Red Wings -- following a five-game trip. "People that don't travel with us and just watch home games have no idea how hard it is to come back and what a grind it is," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "This game is always a tough one to win. We knew that coming in. We're going to give our team a day off (Thursday). Ideally, we'll be freshened up and ready to go by the next one." The Red Wings host Anaheim on Friday night. Detroit hasn't lost at home since Nov. 3 against Calgary. Johan Franzen and Cory Emmerton also scored for Detroit, but Gagner answered with a pair of goals to tie the game. He has eight goals and six assists in four games. After Gagner's power-play goal made it 2-2 with 11:37 remaining, Miller scored his 11th of the season amid a scramble in front. After Justin Abdelkader's shot from the slot was stopped by Nikolai Khabibulin, the Edmonton goalie appeared to think he had the puck frozen. But it was behind him, sitting tantalizingly in the crease, and Miller was able to poke it in the net. "It was one of those right place at the right time. We'll definitely take it," Miller said. "I score some unnatural goals, I guess. That's how I've always scored throughout my whole career, so it's nothing new to me." Zetterberg added an insurance goal with 5:16 to play, beating Khabibulin from a tough angle to the goalie's right. Franzen opened the scoring on a power play, positioning himself in front of Khabibulin and redirecting Ian White's shot from the point with 6:42 remaining in the first period. It was Franzen's 21st goal of the season. Emmerton made it 2-0 early in the second, scoring on a backhander from in front after Abdelkader tried to jam the puck past Khabibulin. Detroit outshot the Oilers 20-9 through two periods but led only 2-1 thanks to Gagner's breakaway goal. It appeared Edmonton's Ben Eager might fight Jonathan Ericsson in front of the benches, but when Gagner took a lead pass and cruised alone into the Detroit zone, Eager spun away to join his teammate on the rush. Gagner has had at least one point in five straight games, including his four-goal, four-assist effort against Chicago on Thursday. He scored again in the third period to tie the game and give himself 13 goals this season. "Obviously, it feels good to produce," Gagner said. "It feels better to win." Joey MacDonald made 15 saves for Detroit, earning his first win of the season in only his third appearance. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said regular starter Jimmy Howard (broken finger) is unlikely to be back this weekend. NOTES: Edmonton coach Tom Renney was back behind the bench after missing Monday's game at Toronto because he was struck in the head by a puck during a morning skate. The cut required stitches and left Renney with headaches. ... Detroit is 21-2-1 at home this season. ... Red Wings F Danny Cleary, who assisted on Emmerton's goal, left the game in the second period because of an undisclosed lower body injury and didn't return. ... The Red Wings have two shootout wins during their home streak.

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs turned Theo Epstein’s “Baseball is Better” speech from his first Wrigley Field press conference into a marketing pitch that might distract fans for a moment from an awful big-league product.          

The 2017 “That’s Cub” ad campaign actually uses what started organically years ago within the farm system, two words that recognized a great at-bat or a heads-up play or a defensive stop.    

Business vs. baseball is no longer the dominant storyline it had been during the early phases of the Wrigleyvile rebuild. Business and baseball are booming for what’s become Major League Baseball’s version of the Golden State Warriors.

It’s just interesting that a franchise valued at north of $2 billion has found so much inspiration on the back fields of this spring-training complex, where staffers you wouldn’t recognize get to work before dawn and players you’ve never heard of dream about their big break.

It’s not just drafting Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. And trading for Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell. And hiring a manager obsessed with T-shirts. Baseball operations became a marketing department, selling prospects to Cub fans, the Chicago media and the gurus putting together the rankings – and trying to get buy-in from players who all think they belong in The Show.

Minor-league field coordinator Tim Cossins gets credit for “When It Happens,” a theme that didn’t simply revolve around 1908 and the championship drought. Jason McLeod, the senior vice president who oversees scouting and player development, suggested pairing the W flag with that phrase, and it became this ubiquitous idea around the team.   

“We tied everything into it,” McLeod said Sunday at Sloan Park. “When that time comes, when it happens, can you lay the bunt down? When it happens, can you execute a pitch? Can you go in and pinch-run, steal the base when the time comes?

“The big ‘When It Happens’ is when we win, of course, but for us in (player development), it was about everything that we’re going to be asked to do in that moment: Are you going to be ready when it happens?”

Now what? The defending World Series champs are going with: “Where It Happens.”

A bullet point from Epstein’s bio in this year’s media guide references how his first three first-round draft picks with the Cubs “combined to set up the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series when Schwarber singled and (Albert) Almora pinch-ran, moved to second on Bryant’s deep fly to center, and scored on Ben Zobrist’s double.”

“We’re never going to forget about the importance of young players,” Epstein said. “There’s definitely a lot of talented, interesting prospects still in the system and sometimes they get a little overshadowed because of the star young players we have at the big-league level and how quickly some of those guys moved through the system. But there’s a lot of talent there.

“We’re going to lean on young players beyond our prospects, not just in trades, but also to provide organizational depth and also to serve as the next generation, the next infusion of talent at the appropriate time.

“But it’s a process. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs in development for all these guys. And we have a ton of faith in our player development operation to help these guys along the way.”

So Ian Happ will start the season one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa and see if some combination of injuries and his switch-hitting skills and defensive versatility gets him to the North Side at some point. Or used as a trade chip for pitching, the way third baseman Jeimer Candelario and catcher Victor Caratini appear to be blocked.

Joe Maddon already compared Eloy Jimenez – who can’t legally buy a beer in Wrigleyville yet – to a young Miguel Cabrera or Edgar Martinez. The Cubs are practically begging for someone like Eddie Butler to pitch his way into the 2018 rotation.

By Monday morning, when the full squad reconvenes after a weekend trip to Las Vegas, the Cubs could start making cuts and shaping their Opening Night roster. But the Cubs are going to need so much more than the 25 players who will be introduced next Sunday at Busch Stadium. Maddon used 26 pitchers and 149 different lineups last season. This is “Where It Happens.”

“If this particular group of youngsters were in a different organization that had a greater need right now, you’d probably hear a lot more about these guys,” Maddon said. “But the fact that they’re stuck behind a Bryant and a Russell and a Javy (Baez) and a Rizzo and a (Willson) Contreras and a Schwarber, et cetera, et cetera, it becomes more difficult to really push or project upon these guys.

“But I think these young guys have gone about their business really well. If it’s bothering them or if they’re concerned about that, they’re not showing that. I think they’ve put their best foot forward.”

Honda Road Ahead: Bulls continue playoff push against Cavaliers, Hawks

Honda Road Ahead: Bulls continue playoff push against Cavaliers, Hawks

Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Will Perdue break down the Bulls' upcoming schedule in the latest edition of the Bulls Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

TNT Bulls are back this week as the team heads into a crucial stretch. 

Currently, the Bulls sit half a game back of the Miami Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and with just eight games remaining on the schedule, each contest is essentially a must-win. 

So, yes, Thursday would be a great time for Jimmy Butler and company to summon their TNT alter ego. The Bulls have sealed 18 straight victories when playing on TNT Thursday, an improbable feat considering those games are usually reserved for two of the NBA's best. 

To continue that run, they'll have to down Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are also fighting for playoff positioning -- albeit at the top of the conference. Good thing the Bulls have a tendency to get up for big games. 

"The Bulls play up and down to their competition," Bulls Pregame and Postgame analyst Kendall Gill said. "They've been doing that the whole season." 

After Cleveland, the Bulls get set to battle another playoff squad, the Atlanta Hawks. 

Watch the video above to see Schanowski, Gill and Perdue break down the matchups.