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coach Brad Stevens
There was something ho-hum about it as the Chicago Blackhawks packed up and headed for points west, north and south as part of their annual November circus trip.The perennial Stanley Cup contenders were sitting atop the Central Division with an impressive 11-3-2 record. Defending scoring champion and reigning league MVP Patrick Kane was off to another sterling start with 18 points in 16 games. Frequent linemate Artem Anisimov was red-hot as well, with an 11-game point streak between Oct. 15 and Nov. 6.Just your run-of-the-mill dominance from a team for whom dominance has become commonplace. But -- have appearances been deceiving for the Blackhawks? And, more to the point, will this current road trip help bring the Blackhawks big picture into greater -- if not more accurate -- focus?In short, the answer is yes.In some ways, thats always been the case. When Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey invade the United Center for an extended stay through the Thanksgiving holidays each November, the Blackhawks subsequent road trip serves multiple purposes -- not the least of which is giving the team a chance for critical self-evaluation.This season, the annual circus trip might be even more important for Chicago, both in terms of accurately assessing where the team stands and in that it will allow the Blackhawks to more fully integrate a significant number of young players into the fold. Twin threads of the same tapestry, if you will.Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman acknowledged that his teams record might have been a little misleading, given how well netminders Corey Crawford and backup Scott Darling had played leading up to the trip.Crawford, overshadowed in some ways by the play of Carey Price in Montreal and a red-hot Tuukka Rask in Boston, has put together a body of work early on that should suggest Vezina Trophy and perhaps even Hart Trophy consideration.Coreys been unbelievable, Bowman said. Its allowed us to not play that well and still gain some confidence.Crawfords play specifically has helped mask transitional challenges for a lineup that features five rookies and another first-year player in 26-year-old defenseman Michal Kempny, a native of the Czech Republic?who came over from Russias Kontinental Hockey League during the offseason.When the Blackhawks -- who are a gaudy 8-1-2 at the United Center -- kicked off the circus trip by getting shut out in Winnipeg 4-0 Tuesday night, leveling their road record at 3-3, it reinforced the notion that they have a lot to learn during the trip.This is going to be a good benchmark for us as a team, Bowman said in an interview a few hours before Chicagos trip-opening loss.The Blackhawks have won three championships since 2010, but they followed up a 2015 Stanley Cup win with a first-round ouster at the hands of the?St. Louis Blues?last spring. Several key parts of that 2015 Cup roster are long gone, including Patrick Sharp, Brad Richards, Teuvo Teravainen, Kimmo Timonen, Antoine Vermette, Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad.The Chicago model is the future for everyone, whether you win Cups or not, one top NHL executive said recently.As in, take your shot, cast off parts that dont fit under the salary cap, and then make another run at it.This season is no different. It took some time because we had so many new players, Bowman acknowledged. Youre trying a bunch of new things.Not everything worked. Early on, the Blackhawks penalty kill was historically bad. Even though theyve shown more structure of late, they still rank dead last in the league in penalty-killing efficiency.?One former NHL coach told early in the season that he wondered if there would be enough offense in the revamped lineup to keep the Blackhawks competitive in what has historically been the most competitive division in hockey. The Blackhawks are tied for sixth in goals per game despite their shutout loss on Tuesday. That is also in spite of the fact that captain Jonathan Toews got off to a slow start, with no goals in his first eight games. Toews has picked up the pace of late while often playing alongside Kane.Now this team will find out even more about itself over the next 11 days and six games, as it makes its way through Western Canada and Southern California.One thing that Bowman looks forward to is the fact that his young players, like 20-year-old college star Nick Schmaltz and 20-year-old defenseman Gustav Forsling, will get their first chance to spend quality time with the rest of the veteran core that remains so much of the teams identity.Those vets -- 37-year-old veteran Marian Hossa has 15 points in 16 games, for instance -- have helped to deflect some of the attention that might otherwise be on these young players as they get their NHL feet under them.Now theyll get a chance to spend time together away from the rink and connect in a much more personal way -- something thats been difficult with veterans for the most part heading home to their families when the teams in Chicago.We want these guys to come together as teammates, Bowman said. 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On a day filled mostly with qualifying matches, fifth-seeded Marcel Granollers of Spain also entered the second with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 win over Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia, while Guido Pella of Argentina defeated Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 7-6 (6), 6-4 to advance. Air Max 270 Black Blue . The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Lions have not announced the hiring, which was first reported by ESPN. Lombardi, the grandson of former Green Bay Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, has been an offensive assistant on Sean Paytons New Orleans staff since 2007. Air Max 270 Black And White . Terms of the deal were not immediately available. The 26-year-old finished last season with Clevelands Triple-A affiliate in Columbus after signing with the Indians in August. NEW YORK -- Bostons backcourt was too good for a Brooklyn one still missing Jeremy Lin.Isaiah Thomas scored 23 points, Avery Bradley had 22 and the Celtics beat the Nets 111-92 on Wednesday night.Al Horford added 17 points for the Celtics in their third straight victory. Jae Crowder had 15.Boston improved to 5-1 when Horford is in the lineup.Al can score the ball, Bradley said. But its all the little things that he does and how he gets the ball moving, its so contagious. During the timeouts hes telling guys, `We need to move the ball. Hes a leader, speaks up and he really helps our team with that because sometimes the ball sticks and for Al to step up and say something and us moving the ball and it start with him, that means a lot.Sean Kilpatrick scored 23 points for the Nets, who have lost five in a row. Trevor Booker had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Bojan Bogdanovic added 14 points.Boston raced to an 11-2 lead and was ahead 30-16 after one quarter, but the Nets answered with a 21-6 run and 12 points from Bogdanovic in the second quarter.The Nets came all the way back to tie it at 60 in the third, but the Celtics then went on a 19-6 run to regain control.For the most part, I feel like we were sharing the ball tonight and getting open shots for our teammates and thats how we pulled away in the first quarter and thats how we pulled away at the end of the game, Bradley said.Third-quarter struggles have become a theme for the Nets thus far.I dont know if our mindset collectively is right, center Brook Lopez said. I mean, I guess its not. We just need to find a way to all be on the same page and come out the way weve been coming out most games, and again just sustaininng that effort and energy.dddddddddddd Thats the bottom line.Kilpatrick scored 13 points in the fourth, but it wasnt enough for Brooklyn.TIP-INSCeltics: Guard Marcus Smart has made an effort to add the floater to his game. Hes worked on it quite a bit, coach Brad Stevens said. It was a major focus going into his second year and he got better at it and then hes continued that focus now going into his third year. The best part about a floater is its got a chance of going in, but it also leads to a shot block attempt so youve got a chance to get a rebound. ... Demetrius Jackson and Jordan Mickey were inactive.Nets: Lopez is now the only player in the league with 20 or more 3-pointers and blocks. ... Booker has matched his single-season career high with his fifth double-double of the season. ... Chris McCullough became the fourth player in history to appear in an NBA game and a D-League game in the same day. ... Lin (strained left hamstring) and Caris LeVert (left foot rehab) were inactive.LIN UPDATECoach Kenny Atkinson said there was no specific time frame for Lins return after he missed his ninth straight game.Hes just progressing as scheduled, Atkinson said. Hes anxious to play. Were anxious to get him back, but we also understand the big picture long-term and, definitely, I think in these situations I know collectively were airing on the side of being cautious and smart.UP NEXTCeltics: Host San Antonio on Friday in an afternoon start.Nets: Visit Indiana on Friday. The Nets beat the Pacers last month for their first victory under Atkinson. ' ' '

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