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SportsMonday: In Lieu Of The Bears

The sports news chasm created by a bye week can only be filled by a smorgasbord of sports. Here are several reports on local franchises in a sort of chronological order:

* The Hawks have given up a total of two goals in their last two home games . . .and lost both.

On Sunday it was the Hawks alumni team, aka the Winnipeg Jets, who came out on top. Former red-sweater-wearer Michael Frolik scored the only goal on the first shift of the game with an assist from fellow former Hawk Andrew Ladd. The home team then had 59 minutes and 40 seconds to even the score. It wasn't enough.

Well, a fan might say, the Jets have had a hot goalie, haven't they? He must have stood on his head, and kept the five-hole closed and . . . all the other delightful things we say about hockey goalies when they play well, and say again, and say again.

Except Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec (the starter who back-stopped the Jets' 1-0 shootout victory at the New York Rangers the night before,) was on the bench. Back-up Michael Hutchinson blanked the Hawks in only his second start and third appearance this season.

* It was Saturday evening that saw the Bulls squeeze in a thrilling victory over the Timberwolves between episodes of As The Injuries Turn.

Earlier that day, it appeared Derrick Rose and his sprained ankle would be in the lineup. Then it appeared he would be on the bench but ready to play if necessary. Then he was declared out. Fortunately Jimmy Butler, who sat out the season's first two games with an injured left thumb, returned to provide much needed offense, including the game winning free throws with 0.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Butler's soapy storyline also included the fact that he declined to sign a contract extension before a Friday deadline, meaning that he will be a restricted free agent next off-season. A fan had to ask, was Jimmy disgruntled? Would he seek greener pastures after the coming season? That narrative came to an abrupt halt late on Saturday when Butler said it was absolutely still his plan to re-sign with the Bulls. The key ingredient in it all was the belief that the salary cap will go way up next summer thanks to the NBA signing a huge new TV deal recently. In other words, there should be considerably more money available to the Bulls to sign Butler to a big deal a little further down the line.

The other guy in the injury news was Taj Gibson, who at least had a handle on his infirmity right from the start. The power forward stated that he was worried his ankle would swell up between his injury Friday and the Saturday game. Sure enough, he was declared out of the lineup shortly after the Bulls arrived in Minnesota.

* And on Friday the Cubs announced that they will introduce new manager Joe Maddon this afternoon. They are apparently so excited about the hire that they will hold the introductory news conference at a bar. Hey, if you were the Cubs and one of the best managers in the game essentially fell into your lap, you'd want to get the party started as quickly as possible as well.

Okay, so perhaps the press conference is being held at the Cubby Bear because Wrigley Field is finally undergoing major renovations. And the event is only open to the media. Still, once the media availability is over, those assembled will have to crack open at least one cold one, won't they?

Maddon becomes the third manager/coach in Chicago with a record of piling up victories in regular seasons and having at least some success in playoffs. One of those three, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, has of course taken his team even further than that on two occasions. The other is coach Tom Thibodeau, who is sort of the anti-Maddon in terms of being set in his ways and maintaining ferocious intensity at all times.

Who knows what will happen with these teams as the Days of Our Lives continue this week. The only sure thing is that there will be no shortage of news.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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