Want to stay ready for the NFL? Try this.

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Want to stay ready for the NFL? Try this.

Andre Gurode got the call from the Bears this week: Cmon up. The five-time Pro Bowl centerguard was ready, not because of what hed done over the past half-decade in the NFL, but because hed been working out harder than he would have been had he been with an NFL team.

Gurode was spending four solid hours, five days a week, at the Michael Johnson Performance training center in McKinney, Tex., northeast of Fort Worth. Getting back into the NFL regimen might be a break.

I went every day from about 8 til noon, Gurode said. We had different parts of workouts, from lifting weights to footwork drills to conditioning, and after conditioning, some football drills. By the time we were finished, it was four hours.

Gurode, who turned 34 last March, was investing the time and effort without any promises. And he signed with the Bears without any promises, whether for a starting job this season or one in the future.

They never said anything like that, Gurode said. They said a couple of guys had gotten injured and they wanted me to come in, learn the play book and be ready in case they needed me.

He has played both center and guard, in the mold of about half the Bears offensive line: Roberto Garza, Edwin Williams, Chris Spencer.

Any way they need me, if they need me to contribute, Im going to be ready, Gurode said.

Not always the easiest job.

Theres a lot of similarity because the NFL is a copy league, Gurode said. At the same time there are a lot of distinct differences this playbook has and it can be difficult. Im going to settle myself down and learn this one.

Part of the immediate task is fitting in with new teammates. In at least one case, that was done before he ever got on a plane for Chicago.

Andre is a good friend, said right tackle Jonathan Scott. We have mutual friends. We also live in the Dallas area and we work out together in the offseason. I kind of picked up a few traits from him. Hes a Pro Bowler. The good thing is that hes on our side now. Im kind of excited for him and ready to go to work for him.

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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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