NY Rangers land Rick Nash in blockbuster deal

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NY Rangers land Rick Nash in blockbuster deal

From Comcast SportsNet
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The wait to land in a new city and with a new team is over for Rick Nash. Finally, after months of speculation, the high-scoring forward was dealt on Monday. And the destination was not a surprise. He's gone from Blue Jacket to Blueshirt. "There was a lot of limbo for sure," Nash said. "It was a tough period. The good thing now is it's over and I can look forward to next year." Nash was traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the New York Rangers for three players and a first-round draft pick. The All-Star, who first went to Columbus management in January and asked to be dealt, heads to Manhattan in exchange for forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov along with defenseman Tim Erixon and a first-round draft pick in 2013. Nash, at 28, is the oldest of the players in the deal, and was shipped along with a third-round pick and a minor-league defenseman to the Rangers, who can use offense. Nash is a former NHL goal-scoring champion, who has never played for a contender, but could blossom under the bright lights of the big city. "We're happy to have a five-time All-Star on our team and a 40-goal scorer," said New York general manager Glen Sather, who was also happy he didn't have to break up the young core of his team any more than he did. "He will help us immensely." Talks heated up over the weekend between Sather and Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson. And by Monday afternoon, a day before labor talks resume between the NHL and the players' association in Toronto, the long-rumored deal was done. Howson began his comments at a news conference by thanking Nash for his contributions over a nine-year career in Columbus as he became the face of the franchise. Howson conceded that the fans might need some time to take it all in. "This is difficult for people to accept when you trade what is arguably your best player," he said. "We understand the fans (might find it) difficult to understand this or (be) upset with this. But this is something that we did because we think it's going to better our hockey club. We got the right value for Rick. "And it's all about moving forward." For both sides, of course. The deal, after all, gives the Rangers a big, sturdy right wing to add to their core of solid young players and also helps them counter moves made by other Eastern Conference powers this offseason. Nash will join a New York offense that includes captain Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. "They are already one of the top teams in the league. The players they have are pretty impressive," Nash said. "In finding a team, I thought the Rangers were perfect. They are a great fit for my style." The Rangers were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season and just missed out on the Presidents' Trophy for most regular-season points. New York defeated Ottawa and Washington in the playoffs before losing to New Jersey in the conference finals in six games. Nash immediately improves its credentials and gets it -- on paper, at least -- closer to its first Stanley Cup since 1994. "This changes the complexion of our team," Sather said. "He is a world-class player. This kind of quality hockey player doesn't come along very often." The move to New York and a perennial playoff team should be a boon to his career, although it will require a major alteration in his lifestyle. Quiet and almost shy, Nash enjoyed playing golf at nice courses and walking around Columbus virtually unnoticed. That will end when he takes his act to the Big Apple. Nash is in the third year of an eight-year contract he signed in 2010 which has an average annual value of 7.8 million. The total salary cap hit of Dubinsky, Anisimov and Erixon is almost exactly the same. One of the most decorated players in the league, Nash helped his native Canada win the gold medal in the 2010 Olympics. He also has played in four World Championships, leading Canada to gold in 2007 and silver in 2005 and 2008. Plus, he shared the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2004, scoring 41 goals to lead the league along with Ilya Kovalchuk, then of Atlanta, and Calgary's Jarome Iginla. Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said he was pleased by one aspect in particular of the trade. "I'm glad that he's in the East," he said with a laugh. "Obviously, he's a great player, and if you only have to play him one time, that's a good thing." On April 5, 2013, Columbus will play host to Nash and the Rangers for the first time. Nash is coming off a season in which he had 30 goals and 29 assists while playing in all 82 games. He has 289 goals and 258 assists in 674 career NHL games, all with the Blue Jackets. His offensive skill set will be welcomed by a New York team that struggled for offense during the postseason. With one of the NHL's top goaltenders, Henrik Lundqvist, playing in front of a deep, young defense, many people believed the Rangers were just one scorer away from a title last season. Offense was clearly a problem in the six-game loss to the rival Devils, as the Rangers did not score more than three goals in any of those contests. Meanwhile, the acquisition of the three skilled, young players greatly improves the Blue Jackets, who had the worst record in the NHL last season. They believe they made a key step at the trade deadline when they sent forward Jeff Carter to the Los Angeles Kings -- who would go on to win the Stanley Cup with Carter playing a key role -- for young defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round pick. Johnson, who captained the United States squad in the 2010 Olympics, will likely take over that role in Columbus. They also traded for another young forward, Nick Foligno, in a one-for-one deal with the Senators earlier this summer. The loss of Nash will hurt a Columbus offense which already was starved for goals. But Dubinsky and Anisimov will likely get a shot at playing on the top two lines as will Foligno, Vinny Prospal, Derick Brassard, R.J. Umberger and youngsters Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson. The Blue Jackets, who have only been to the postseason once in their 11 seasons, now own three first-round picks in the 2013 draft. Dubinsky, 26, had 10 goals and 24 assists in 77 games a year ago with the Rangers, while the 24-year-old Anisimov had 16 goals and 20 assists in 79 games. Erixon, just 21, a former first-round pick of the Calgary Flames in 2009, only played in 18 games for the Rangers last year in his first year as a professional. Dubinsky missed part of the Rangers' playoff run this year with a foot injury. Howson said both Dubinsky and Erixon were looking forward to a fresh start with a young team in Columbus. Anisimov, as far as anyone knows, still doesn't know he was traded. "Artem is on his honeymoon in Fiji," Howson said. "A number of people left messages for him but we haven't heard from him yet."

Illini's Malcolm Hill breaks backboard with practice dunk

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Illini's Malcolm Hill breaks backboard with practice dunk

One of John Groce's goals for his team this offseason was to improve the Illini's strength.

Things seem to be going nicely.

Malcolm Hill broke a backboard in the Illini's practice gym on Monday, and there's photo evidence to prove it.

Take a look at these tweets from Hill and Illinois strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher.

Hill was already the team's best player in numerous facets. He led the Illini with 18.1 points and 3.3 assists per game and ranked second with 6.6 rebounds per game.

Now he's shattering glass with some mean slams. It could be a crazy senior year for Hill.

Bullpen's ridiculous performance bails out Cubs in win over Dodgers

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Bullpen's ridiculous performance bails out Cubs in win over Dodgers

The Cubs' MLB-leading starting rotation has gotten plenty of buzz this season, but the bullpen had their breakout game on Memorial Day.

With Jason Hammel limited to only two innings because of hamstring cramping, the bullpen stepped up big time, tossing seven perfect frames in the Cubs' 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of 41,470 fans at Wrigley Field.

Hammel allowed just a bloop single with two outs in the first inning on a ball that fell between Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward in shallow right field, wind-aided and sun-aided base hit for Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

Hammel walked the next hitter and that was it.

No other Dodger reached base after Adrian Gonzalez walked with two outs in the first inning. 

Hammel and four relievers combined to set down 25 straight to end the game, the first time a Cubs pitching staff has done that since May 15, 1960.

Travis Wood was the standout performer from the bullpen, coming in on short notice in the third inning and tossing four perfect innings with four strikeouts, throwing just 43 pitches.

When Maddon sat down for his standard postgame press conference, he said the Chicago media should really be talking to Wood first.

"Oh my God," Maddon said. "I'm really trying to decide when to take him out of that game. ... My goodness. You throw like 20 pitches after two innings.

"He was so pitch-efficient, he permitted us to do what we did. It comes down to that. Pure and simple. Forty-three pitches in four innings. He was spectacular."

Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon followed Wood in order, each throwing an inning and combining for four strikeouts and only 36 pitches.

"The rest of the guys came in and they were very efficient 'cause they saw Travis go out there and do it," Maddon said. "So then here comes Grimmer and here comes Stroppy and here comes Ronny. 

"They all were really, really efficient. Good pitches, good location, good stuff. But Travis set the tone for the whole day."

"I love our bullpen," said David Ross, who caught the whole game. "Those guys are very impressive to me."

Wood picked up his third victory of the season on a day where he entered the game just seconds after sitting on the couch in the Cubs clubhouse. When he saw Hammel go down, he knew he might be needed, so he dashed out to the dugout and sure enough, he got the call to go into the game.

Maddon and the Cubs always claim Wood has a rubber arm, and he needed only 15 or so pitches to warm up before his four perfect innings. 

"[I was just focusing on] each hitter at a time and try to get the outs," Wood said. "Those are freak situations that happen - a guy gets hurt or in Hamm's case, it was just a cramp.

"So you're just out there to get outs for as long as they want you to. And then take it from there."

The Cubs got on the board in the fifth inning when Zobrist led off with a single and wound up on third after Dodgers right field Yasiel Puig booted the ball.

Heyward plated Zobrist on a 60-foot chopper down the first-base line, reaching safely for an infield single. He then came around to score the game's final run on Anthony Rizzo's double to right field two batters later.

The Cubs have won six straight games and have allowed just one hit to the Dodgers in their last 18 head-to-head innings dating back to last season.

Now the Dodgers have to contend with Jake Arrieta - who no-hit them on national TV the last time he faced them - Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

Cubs breathing a sigh of relief after Jason Hammel's leg cramp

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Cubs breathing a sigh of relief after Jason Hammel's leg cramp

Before anybody really knew what happened, Jason Hammel was sitting on the ground behind the pitcher's mound at Wrigley Field surrounded by Cubs trainers and coaches.

The veteran starting pitcher had just come out to warm up for the top of the third inning after he and Ben Zobrist struck out to strand the bases loaded for the Cubs in the bottom of the second.

He eventually got up and tried to throw a few more warmup pitches, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Chris Bosio ultimately decided to roll with Travis Wood, removing Hammel from the game after only 39 pitches.

Two innings later, the Cubs announced Hammel was being evaluated for right hamstring cramping.

After the game, Joe Maddon sounded optimistic about Hammel's status.

"It seems to have just been a cramp," Maddon said. "We just couldn't wait for it to settle down. You just don't know in that particular moment if it is a cramp. 

"We thought it was a cramp, but you just can't stand out there for 15 minutes and wait for it to dissolve or whatever. So we had to move it along at that point."

Maddon said the Cubs feel Hammel should be ready to go for his next start in five days.

Hammel - who said he's never dealt with a cramp like that before - iced and massaged his leg after being removed from the game and took an anti-inflammatory. 

But he felt good enough to joke after the game about how he gave up the only hit before the Cubs bullpen combined for seven perfect innings of relief.

"I blew the no-hitter!" Hammel said. "It makes me feel really small. I obviously wanted to stay in there. It just sucks. Something like that where it's on and off.

"I felt like after I stretched it and it was down on the ground and I threw the first pitch, I felt fine. Then the next pitch, it was back. It would've taken us six hours to get through the game if I stayed in there."

After two shutout innings Monday, Hammel now has a 2.09 ERA and 1.16 WHIP on the season and has been a revelation in helping the Cubs to the best starting rotation in baseball slotting behind Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey.

Hammel was pitching at an All-Star level (2.89 ERA) before running into a leg injury in early July last season. He was never the same after, posting a 5.03 ERA in his final 15 starts.

Over the winter, the 33-year-old Hammel responded by shedding some weight and rededicating himself to a training regimen designed to help take some pressure off his lower body.

After the hamstring/calf issue last July, Maddon had a quick hook with Hammel, who expressed his frustration at various points throughout the end of last year. 

But after the cramp popped up Monday, Hammel saw the big picture and wasn't upset with Maddon, who wanted to play it safe with the Cubs thinking World Series or bust.

"Made the right move," said Hammel, who bounced the ball on the mound in frustration after being removed from the game. "We're all stubborn when we're out there. We want to compete and finish what we started. But the end game is basically to make sure we're staying healthy and it doesn't really do any good to push it there. 

"I honestly felt like I drank the equivalent of Lake Michigan last night. Once it starts to get pretty humid and hot here, I always hydrate really well. I drank so much water last night. I really don't understand why I cramped. We'll figure it out."

If Hammel is forced to miss any time, Maddon said he would turn to Wood or Trevor Cahill for a spot start.

When asked if he feels ready for a spot start, Wood responded simply:

"I feel so. I'm always ready to take the ball."