NIU Florida natives prep for return home

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NIU Florida natives prep for return home

DeKALB, Ill. -- Northern Illinois football players each receive six tickets for family and friends to attend the Huskies Jan. 1 Orange Bowl date with Florida State.
But for members of NIUs Florida delegation, six is nowhere near enough.
Im going to need at least 30, minimum, senior linebacker Victor Jacques said. But Im shooting for 40.
The demands on running back Akeem Daniels, a junior from the Kissimmee, Fla., are similar and rising.
Ive got 20-plus so far, he said. Everybodys calling. Family, friends, familys friends. Im trying to do my best to get everybody tickets. Im asking other teammates if theyre not using them.
The Huskies roster is dotted with 11 players from the Sunshine State, some who were recruited by in-state schools but opted to migrate 1,000 miles north. As many as eight could start on Jan. 1 against the Seminoles.
I wanted to see something different, Jacques, a redshirt senior with 28 tackles in eight appearances this season, said. Coming here, I saw how it was a great program, had great facilities, was on the rise and it was kind of an easy choice.
Jacques, who was also recruited by Florida International, Central Florida and South Florida, said there were adjustments to make from the balmy and culturally distinct Miami region.
Its (was) a big transition, he said. The people are a little bit different, but for the most part the weather was the biggest thing. I finally got a winter coach and got used to it.
Jacques cant wait to play at his hometown Sun Life Stadium on Jan. 1 against the Seminoles.
Its a complete, absolute dream for me being able to play in front of all my friends and family, he said. Especially (being) my last game, its quite an experience that I will cherish for a long time.
Daniels already had a connection in DeKalb. His older brother, Kiaree, played defensive back at NIU from 2008-10. And Akeem liked the chemistry and closeness among Huskie players.
I thought that was real special, you dont get that everywhere, he said. At the end of the day I had to make the decision, but my brother being here and liking the team bonding, the team chemistry, it made it an easy decision.
Daniels been a dual threat for the Huskies with 432 rushing yards on 65 carries and nine touchdowns. Hes also caught 18 passes for 192 yards and two TDs.
And Daniels, who says he long ago adjusted to DeKalbs cold and legendary winds, has no regrets about coming north.
Three MAC championship (games) the past three years, he said. I like this place.
Other top Floridians on the Huskies include Tommylee Lewis, Riviera Beach, the No. 2 receiver with 43 catches for 478 yards and five touchdowns; linebacker Jamaal Bass, Miramar, the Huskies third-leading tackler (76); cornerback Demetrius Stone, Miami, 73 tackles; and defensive tackle Ken Bishop, Sunrise, 52 tackles.
Northern Illinois coaches started serious preparation for Florida State this week and had at least one day (Monday) to work outdoors at Huskie Stadium before moving practice to the enclosed DeKalb Recreation Center on Tuesday.
Yesterday we started the main part of our game plan and we got some time with the coaches to get some film study done, head coach Rod Carey said. Were still in the middle of what I call a four-day game-plan week. Were treating this like we build up to a normal (game).
The Huskies (12-1) will face a Florida State team (11-2) unlike any theyve faced.
Theyre good, thats an understatement, probably, Carey said. Theyre long, theyre athletic, theyre sound in what they do and well coached. They do all the things you expect an ACC (Atlantic Coast) champion to do.
But NIU counters with plenty of talent and exceptional seniors.
We have a lot of really good players on this team, he said. From Martel Moore to Perez Ashford, Sean Progar, Alan Baxter -- all of our seniors are playing their best football. Thats what makes this team.
If you look through the roster and highlight a senior, thats one of our best players.
The Huskies plan to practice in DeKalb through Thursday, then break for the holiday. Theyll return Christmas night and depart for Florida at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 26.
Northern Illinois will practice daily in the run up to the Orange Bowl, set for a 7:30 p.m. (Central) kickoff on ESPN.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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