***So Vinny Del Negro survived the so called “Christmas Eve Curse” in which two Bulls Coaches departed. Scott Skiles two years ago and Tim Floyd in 2003. And Billy Reay,the Blackhawks all time winningest Coach was dismissed on Christmas Eve 1976 by receiving a note under his door(at home). The Bulls will have a different starting lineup Saturday night when they host the New Orleans Hornets and Chris Paul.

***Christmas is much different than it used to be in the 90’s. During the Bulls Championship run, they were featured on Christmas night almost every year, and at home also! Not anymore. It an annual dose of the Lakers and Celtics(who both play Friday,but not against each other.).

***The Blackhawks sure bounced back with another impressive 3-0 win over the Red Wings in Detroit Wednesday night,just 24 hours after losing a tough one to San Jose 3-2 at the United Center. This weekend,a big home and home series with the improving Nashville Predators(Saturday in Music City USA and Sunday at the United Center),could see the Hawks widen their Central Division lead, or the Preds could tighten things up. This Blackhawk team has stayed away from any type of losing streak so far this season.

***OK, is it a bad sign when the Cubs get outbid by the Washington Nationals as they were for closer Matt Capps? Not that Capps is Mariano Rivera or anyone like that, but he would have given a bullpen with holes some needed depth.

***The White Sox did what the Cubs SHOULD do. The Sox added J.J.Putz to help set up Bobby Jenks or even close on occasion if Jenks is overworked and not available.


Hawks blank Wings 3-0 again-this time at the “Joe”

DETROIT—It doesn’t seem to matter who plays goal for the Blackhawks.Antti Niemi made 33 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and his career, and Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist in the Blackhawks’ 3-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.Patriock Sharp and Jonathan Toews also scored for the Hawks, who also shut out Detroit 3-0 on Sunday night in Chicago with Cristobal Huet in goal.Jimmy Howard stopped 28 shots for Detroit, which has gone 2 hours, 21 minutes without a goal.Detroit was without eight regulars because of injury or illness.

“I think at this time right now their roster is better than ours. It was evident as the game went on and we didn’t score,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They’re a good team. When they play hard and we play hard, they’re better. They were better two nights in a row, it’s that simple.”

Detroit has long dominated the Central Division. It appears the Blackhawks have turned the tide. They are first in the Central and tied with the San Jose Sharks for the top point total in the Western Conference, while Detroit is ninth in the Western Conference and out of the playoffs.It was also Marian Hossa’s first game in Detroit after leaving the Red Wings last summer to sign a 12-year, $62 million free-agent contract with the Blackhawks. He received a loud chorus of boos when his name was announced as part of the starting lineup and also was booed each time he touched the puck. Hossa hit the crossbar on a breakaway with a little more than 3½ minutes left in the first period and assisted on Sharp’s goal.Hossa left Pittsburgh to sign a one-year free agent deal with Detroit in the summer of 2008 — after the Red Wings beat the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals — spurning several long-term, lucrative offers, including one from Pittsburgh. But the Penguins beat Hossa and the Red Wings in seven games in last spring’s Cup Finals.Kane opened the scoring 30 seconds into the second period with a power-play goal. He beat Howard with a slap shot from the top of the left circle with Troy Brouwer screening the Detroit goalie for Kane’s 12th goal.Sharp scored 3:47 into the third period when he jammed one in off a goalmouth scramble with the teams playing 4-on-4. It was Sharp’s 11th goal.Toews scored with 1:18 left.


Detroit D Brian Rafalski didn’t play because of the flu. Defenseman Jakub Kindl was recalled from Detroit’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids for his second stint in Detroit this season to replace Rafalski….Detroit RW Mattias Ritola made his NHL debut….Ben Eager missed his fourth game because of an upper-body injury and Cam Barker missed his third game with a lower-body injury……The Red Wings celebrated the 30th anniversary of Joe Louis Arena……Hockey Hall of Famer Gordie Howe carried the Winter Olympics torch for a short stint as it came through southern Ontario on Wednesday. Howe also was in attendance at the game.

Illini lose to Mizzou for first time in a decade. Chicago State wins in Vegas over Wagner

ST. LOUIS—Kim English scored 24 points while matching his career best with five 3-pointers, and Missouri hounded Illinois into a season-high 22 turnovers in an 81-68 victory that ended the Tigers’ nine-year losing streak in the Braggin’ Rights game on Wednesday night.Freshman Michael Dixon had a season-best 16 points and five assists, and J.T. Tiller had 12 points, five assists and five rebounds for the Tigers (8-3), who have won three in a row. Missouri beat Illinois (8-4) for the first time since 1999 before a raucous sellout crowd of 20,497.Mike Tisdale had 14 points and 13 rebounds for Illinois (8-4), which has lost two straight and is 1-4 on the road or at neutral sites. Mike Davis also had a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.


LAS VEGAS—Carl Montgomery scored a game-high 23 points and had eight rebounds to lead Chicago State to a 78-63 victory over Wagner on Wednesday in the final round of the Las Vegas Classic.Montgomery went 8 of 11 from the field and 7 of 8 from the free throw line for the Cougars (5-7), who won their last two games of the Classic.Christian Wall added 17 points, including 11 of 13 from the line. Antonio Lofton added 12 points for the Cougars. Chicago State went 29 of 37 from the foul line (78 percent). By contrast, the Seahawks were 7 of 13 (54 percent).Tyler Murray led Wagner (2-10) with 10 points, six rebounds and four steals. Michael Orock had 10 points and four steals.The Cougars jumped to a 13-2 lead and never trailed. The Seahawks cut the lead to 44-37 with 14:18 left but got no closer.

Hawks take 47 shots on Nabokov, still lose 3-2 to Sharks

Sometimes in the NHL, a team can dominate big time,and still lose due to spectacular goal tending by the opposition net minder. Evgeni Nabokov,whom the Blackhawks knocked out on Thanksgiving Eve in San Jose,was brilliant in stopping 45 of the 47 shots he faced and the Sharks edged the Blackhawks 3-2. San Jose was opportunistic since they were badly out shot 47-14. The Sharks,who avenged a 7-2 loss to the Hawks, went after Cristobal Huet “top shelf” and that’s how they scored all three of their goals. Dany Heatly netted the only goal of the first period from a difficult angle. The Hawks continued their onslaught in the second period, but the Sharks,who gave up three short handed goals to Joel Quienville’s team last month,turned the tables in this one. With the Hawks on the power play,veteran Joe Thornton beat Huet to make it 2-0 and that lead carried over into the third period. Patrick Kane finally got the Hawks on the board early in the last period by scoring on his own rebound. But shortly after that, Jason Demers went high on Huet to score what would be the winning goal. Marion Hossa’s brought the Blackhawks closer one Huet was pulled for an extra attacker,but after that. Nabokov shut the door.

NOTES—The Hawks rematch the Red Wings Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.


Bulls late rally in NY comes up short.

NEW YORK—One night after a humiliating collapse, the Bulls nearly pulled off a furious comeback.Instead, David Lee and New York Knicks made enough big plays to keep their December roll going.Lee rattled in the clinching jumper with 5.5 seconds left, finishing with 18 points and a career high-tying 21 rebounds as the Knicks held on for an 88-81 victory Tuesday night.New York won its third straight and seventh in nine games, but Lee admitted that the Bulls’ game Monday, when they blew a 35-point lead in a home loss to Sacramento, was on his mind.Not until the Bulls had started Tuesday as poorly as it finished Monday.Al Harrington led the Knicks with 20 points and Wilson Chandler had 16. New York improved to 8-3 this month, clinching its first winning December since going 9-7 in 2004.Derrick Rose scored 22 of his 26 points in the second half for the Bulls, who whittled a 22-point deficit to one in the final two minutes. But Lee grabbed an offensive board and made two free throws with 1:25 remaining, then sank a baseline jumper that made it 84-79 as the shot clock was winding down.Luol Deng scored 23 points and Joakim Noah had 10 points and 21 rebounds.The Knicks continued their impressive turnaround after the worst start in franchise history and improved to 3-0 on a five-game homestand. Another possible victory was lost when they wasted a 17-point lead in a 98-89 loss last Thursday in the United Center, where they hoisted 47 3-pointers, two shy of the NBA record.That was nothing compared to the lead the Bulls blew Monday night as they lost 102-98 to Sacramento after opening a 35-point bulge with 8:50 left in the third quarter. It was the biggest rally in the NBA since Utah came back from 36 points down to beat Denver on Nov. 27, 1996.That only increased speculation that Del Negro’s job could be in jeopardy, but he said before the game he wasn’t worried about that.Noah said the Bulls “definitely have a lot of soul searching to do” after their eighth straight road loss.The Bulls missed 10 of its first 12 shots and the Knicks owned a double-digit lead for much of the first quarter before taking a 22-12 advantage into the second. A 10-3 spurt early in the period made it a 17-point game, and Harrington’s jumper as time expired after Lee hustled to keep a possession alive made it 53-31 at halftime.After building a 79-44 lead in the third quarter Monday, the Bulls were outscored 111-50 from there through the first two quarters of this game.But they chipped away in the third, helped by some sloppy play from the Knicks, and cut it to 68-56 on Rose’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.The Bulls climbed within eight early in the fourth, and after New York pushed it back to 13, Rose led another charge. He had consecutive buckets, then found Noah for a layup that made it 80-79 with 1:41 left, setting up Lee’s strong finish.

NOTES—Former Bull Larry Hughes

returned for the Knicks after missing three games with a strained left groin….Knicks forward Jonathan Bender, who recently returned to the NBA after knee injuries forced him to walk away early in the 2005-06 season, sat out the second half with a sore right hip….The Knicks will be wearing green uniforms Friday when they host Miami in their first Christmas game since 2001….The Bulls are off until they host New Orleans Saturday night.


EVANSTON—John Shurna scored a career-high 29 points as Northwestern defeated Central Connecticut State 74-54 Tuesday night for its ninth straight victory and its best start in 79 years.The last time the Wildcats (10-1) won 10 of their first 11 games was also the last time they won an outright Big Ten championship – 1930-31. The winning streak is their longest since they went 9-0 to open the 1993-94 season, and they then lost their first nine conference games.NU, which hasn’t finished as high as fourth place or had a winning record in the Big Ten since 1968, starts conference play Dec. 30 at Illinois.Drew Crawford scored 15 and Michael Thompson 14 for the Wildcats.Robby Ptacek scored 22 points for Central Connecticut State (3-6), which has played only one home game.


NORMAL—Osiris Eldridge scored a season-high 23 points Tuesday night to help Illinois State defeat Grambling State, 80-56.Jackie Carmichael matched his career-best performance with 16 points for the Redbirds (9-2), and Dinma Odiakosa had 14 points and 11 rebounds. ISU held a 43-27 rebounding edge over the Tigers.Eldridge had 18 of his points in the first half, when Illinois State built a 39-28 lead. The Redbirds then scored the first seven points of the second half and kept the lead in double figures for the remainder of the game.


FORT MYERS—Reggie Chambers scored 20 points as Florida Gulf Coast defeated DePaul 64-61 on Tuesday night.Reed Baker added 12 points and Anthony Banks added 11 for the Eagles (4-6). Mac Koshwal had 16 points for DePaul (7-5) while Jeremiah Kelly added 12 and Will Walker 11.Florida Gulf Coast built a 27-19 lead in the first half after a Chambers 3-pointer and led 30-25 at halftime.Baker hit 3-pointers to keep the Eagles up by double figures, 38-26 and 42-31. A rebound basket by Anthony Banks put Florida Gulf Coast back up by 12 at 46-34.DePaul cut the deficit to 62-61 on Koshwal’s rebound layup, but Derrick O’Neil responded with a rebound layup with 25.6 seconds left.The Blue Demons had a chance to tie in the final seconds, but Walker’s 3-pointer didn’t draw iron.


Ben Averkamp scored 17 points and Geoff McCammon added 16 to lead Loyola to a 68-56 victory against Albany on Tuesday night.Terrance Hill added 13 points for Loyola (9-2), which won its fifth straight. Averkamp had nine rebounds.Fran Urli led Albany (4-9) with 12 points.The Ramblers never trailed, scoring the first seven points and maintaining a double-digit cushion for much of the game.


AKRON—Brett McKnight scored 16 points and Jimmy Conyers grabbed 19 rebounds to help power Akron to its fourth straight victory, 77-65 over UIC on Tuesday night.Conyers also scored 10 points while helping the Zips (8-3) pile up a 38-23 advantage on the boards and outscore the Flames (3-7) 34-24 in the paint.Akron led throughout the second half after taking a 36-27 halftime lead with a 13-3 run over the final 5:14. The Zips outshot the Flames in the second half 53.8 percent (14-for-26) to 40.6 percent (13-for-32) while building their lead to as much as 15 points.Darryl Roberts added 13 points for Akron, which has won eight of its last nine games, and Chris McKnight had 10 off the bench. The Zips’ reserves outscored their UIC counterparts 26-14.Zavion Neely scored 16 points to pace the Flames and Robo Kreps added 13.


SOUTH BEND—Luke Harangody had 20 points, 11 rebounds and five assists to pace Notre Dame to an easy 101-69 victory over Bucknell on Tuesday night.Ben Hansbrough added 16 points and five assists for the Fighting Irish (11-2), and Tim Abromaitis had 15 points. The Irish dominated from the start, hitting their first five shots to open a 15-4 lead while the Bison were just 2 of 12 from the floor. By the time the Irish missed their first 2-point shot, a jumper inside by Abromaitis, they were ahead 29-12.In the first half, the Irish made nine 3-pointers and shot 63 percent while the Bison shot just 24 percent. Notre Dame led 49-22 at halftime.


LAS VEGAS—Kabangu Kasamba and Damian Windham each scored 11 points to lead Chicago State over Eastern Washington 62-53 in the third round of the Las Vegas Classic on Tuesday night.Both players were 4 of 6 from the field for Chicago State (4-7), which won its first game against a Division I school this year.Jeffery Forbes led Eastern Washington (4-8) with 13 points and five steals. Mark Dunn had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Eagles, who shot 15 of 54 (28 percent) from the field.The Cougars were 22 of 48 (46 percent) from the field. They never trailed and built a 34-20 halftime lead.


CHARLESTON—Eastern Illinois scored the game’s first 12 points and never looked back Tuesday night in routing Franklin College 100-40.Tyler Laser scored 15 points to lead the Panthers (7-4). Jay Smith had 14, and James Hollowell and Curry McKinney had 12 apiece. EIU’ last 100-point game was on Feb. 27, 2001.Eastern Illinois led 47-20 at halftime. The Panthers enjoyed a 45-31 advantage on the glass, with Hollowell’s nine rebounds leading the team, and shot 58 percent from the floor in the game while holding the Grizzlies to 31 percent. All 12 Panthers who played scored.Franklin (4-7), is a Division III school.


MACOMB—James Granstra and Ceola Clark teamed up to lead Western Illinois to a 55-44 victory over Central Arkansas on Tuesday night.Granstra was the only double-figure scorer for the Leathernecks (5-6), finishing with 14 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots. Clark scored nine points and had game highs of 11 rebounds and six assists.David Nurse added nine points for Western Illinois.

BULLS BLOW 35 POINT LEAD, to SACRAMENTO…..set team record!!!!!!!

Tyreke Evans and the Sacramento Kings pulled off an incredible comeback, rallying from 35 points down in the second half to stun the Bulls 102-98 on Monday night.The Bulls led 79-44 with 8:50 left in the third quarter, and were still up 83-50 two minutes later, before the Kings went on their run.Evans personally outscored the Bulls 9-3 over the final 2:13 and finished with 23 points for Sacramento, which has its first two-game road winning streak since late in the 2007-08 season.After Sacramento finished the third with a 19-5 run to make it 88-69, Ime Udoka scored 15 of the Kings’ next 22 points in 9:32 to cut it to 95-91. That’s when Evans, the outstanding rookie guard from Memphis, took over.Evans converted a three-point play and, after Luol Deng made a free throw, scored on a drive and hit a foul shot to give the Kings their first lead since the opening minutes. Evans then hit a 22-footer at the shot-clock buzzer to put Sacramento up 99-96. Derrick Rose made two free throws to cut it to 99-98 before Evans made one of two free throws. After Rose missed a layup, Beno Udrih clinched the win with two more free throws. Deng scored 26 points and Rose added 24 for the Bulls, who were booed off the court. Evans followed Rose to Memphis and both played only one year of college ball before turning pro. Rose was last season’s Rookie of the Year and Evans, one of only four NBA players averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, is a front-runner for the award this season.The Bulls appeared on their way to an easy victory after an almost-perfect first quarter during which they shot 71 percent, committed no turnovers, held the Kings to 39 percent shooting and forced seven giveaways.The Bulls opened the second quarter with a 9-3 run, capped by Rose’s driving layup, to take a 47-22 lead.The Kings pulled to 61-43 on Omri Casspi’s 3-pointer with 2:28 left in the half before Deng scored seven points as the Bulls used an 18-1 surge from the end of the second quarter through the early stages of the third to take their 35-point lead.In the fourth quarter, the Bulls were 2 for 10 from the floor and had nine turnovers. The Kings, meanwhile, shot 11 for 21, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, and turned the ball over only twice.

NOTES—The Bulls set a team record by blowing a 35 point lead.The NBA record for the biggest blown margin is 36……Andres Nocioni received a nice ovation when introduced before the game. Acquired by the Kings from the Bulls last February, Nocioni was one of the Bulls’ most popular players of the post-Michael Jordan years. “I’m fine with Sacramento,” he said, “but I miss Chicago a lot.” …..Tyrus Thomas, who broke a bone in his left forearm on Nov. 6, returned to practice Sunday…..Vinny Del Negro hopes Thomas will play Saturday against New Orleans. … Deng has averaged 23 points while playing the last four games with a small fracture in his left (non-shooting) thumb.


***So now the Bears have sewed up a losing record with their embarrassing 31-7 loss to the Ravens. Jay Cutler had three of the Bears four interceptions(Calib Hanie the other). The Bears offense scored exactly zero points. Do they have an excuse since they arrived in Baltimore after midnight Saturday evening? Sure, but Cutler has been throwing picks all season. Now with 25,that’s the most since George Blanda in the early 1950’s! The Bears record for interceptions in a single season is 31 by Hall of Famer Sid Luckman in 1947. Not even Cutler can catch that one with two games left, CAN HE?

***Cutler’s passer rating was 7.9, and that is not a Bears record either. Cade McNown had a rating of ZERO(0.0)in the Bears late season loss at San Francisco in 2000.

***Before the game, GM Jerry Angelo held court and when asked if he would give Lovie Smith a “vote of confidence”, he declined, saying all members of the Coaching Staff etc, would be evaluated after the season.

***Now that Milton Bradley is finally gone, what else will Jim Hendry do to improve the Cubs? Or the question should be,what else will he be allowed to do? This is still an average team that needs help in the lead off position, a legit short stop, another outfielder,and a closer. And no, I’m not sold on Carlos Marmol handling that position. He doesn’t throw enough strikes. Oh yes, with Rich Harden gone, the Cubs need another starter.

***The Blackhawks delivered another message they way they shut down the Detroit Red Wings Sunday night. Detroit willl still be a factor by Playoff time,they will be also healthier.

***How about those Northwestern Wildcats, off to a 9-1 start for the first time in 79 years!!


Hawks shut down Red Wings 3-0!

The Blackhawks, the one good pro team in this town continued to roll as they knocked off a nemesis,the hated Detroit Red Wings 3-0 before a very loud crowd which for a change had very few Wings Fans. The Red Wings are short handed to be sure and do not look anything like the one that ousted the Hawks in five games in last Spring’s Stanley Cup Western Conference Finals, or even the one that will likely get healthier later this season. In fact,Detroit was pretty much shut down in this one,mustering just 20 shots on Cristobal Huet who earned his third shutout of the season and sixth in total by the Hawks. Duncan Keith scored what proved to be all the Hawks needed with a slap shot that whistled past a screened Chris Osgood to make it 1-0 after one period. Then Brian Campbell netted his third of the season,and second of the current home stand to make it 2-0,again Osgood may have been unable to see the shot. The one goal that Osgood likely would like to have back was off the stick of Dustin Byluglien who’s slapper handcuffed the Wings goalie who did make 32 saves on the night. The third period was scoreless as the Hawks continued to deliver a message to the rest of the Western Conference(which the Hawks now lead in points)and the entire NHL.
NOTES—Huet was chosen as the NHL’s “#1 Star” for thepast week. ….The Hawks host San Jose Tuesday night, then tarvel to Joe Louis Arena for a rematch with Detroit Wednesday evening.

Bears clinch losing season with turnover effort in Baltimore

BALTIMORE—The Bears would have been better off getting snowed out! They clinched a losing record.Joe Flacco threw a career-high four touchdown passes, and the Baltimore Ravens capitalized on six Bears turnovers in a 31-7 rout on Sunday.Baltimore (8-6) led 14-0 after 13 minutes and 31-7 after three quarters. The victory solidified the Ravens’ hold on the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC and improved their record against teams currently with losing records to 6-0. Jay Cutler threw three interceptions, upping his NFL-high total to 25, and backup Caleb Hanie was also picked off. In addition, the Bears (5-9) lost two fumbles.The only Bears score came on a 49-yard punt return by Earl Bennett.The Ravens had alternatingly won and lost for seven straight weeks, but now – after beating Detroit 48-3 last Sunday – they have their first winning streak since September.Flacco went 21 for 29 for 234 yards with two touchdown passes to Todd Heap and one apiece to Demetrius Williams and Derrick Mason. Ray Rice ran for 77 yards in the first quarter and finished with 87.Cutler went 10 for 27 for 94 yards. The Bears have lost six of seven overall and five straight on the road.Cutler completed a 30-yard pass to Bennett on the game’s first play from scrimmage. But the drive ended with an interception by Domonique Foxworth at the Baltimore 46, and the Ravens cashed in with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Todd Heap.And then it happened again: The Bears moved to the Baltimore 14, Jarret Johnson picked off a short pass intended for fullback Jason McKie, and Flacco ended an 81-yard drive with a 7-yard TD pass to Heap.Down 14-0, the Baers found a different way to end a march in frustrating fashion. After twice running for first downs, Cutler overthrew tight end Greg Olsen on fourth down from the Baltimore 1.But the Bears held, and Bennett took the punt up the middle before cutting down the right sideline for a touchdown.Baltimore missed a chance to widen its lead when Billy Cundiff hooked a 30-yard field goal try late in the half.But the Ravens pulled away with a 17-point third quarter. After Williams caught a 32-yard touchdown pass, rookie Johnny Knox fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Flacco connected with Mason for an 18-yard score.Two plays later, Matt Forte fumbled and Cundiff followed with a 40-yard field goal.