Joel Quenneville

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville reaches out to Lovie Smith as Bears prepare for NFC Championship

Surely NFL coaches hold the opinions of their closest peers – other coaches in the league – in the highest regards. Still, every now and then, coaches in other sports will converse with each other – whether it’s a matter of discussing motivational strategies or just a nice pat on the back.

Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville received a “good luck” phone call for Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith when the team made an impressive run to the Stanley Cup finals, so it only makes sense that Coach Q returned the favor.

It will be a big sports day in Chicago on Sunday, as the Blackhawks will face the Philadelphia Flyers for the first time since their Cup finals series shortly before the Bears take on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game. Quenneville said he was glad to return the favor with an encouraging phone call to Smith and wants to make sure he can watch the football game once the Flyers-Hawks game concludes.

“I exchanged messages with Lovie there,” Quenneville said after practice on Thursday. “We’re rooting for each other.

“I just appreciated the phone call last year and I wished him good luck. We’re behind him and rooting for them.”

The Hawks will play the team they beat for the Stanley Cup — the Philadelphia Flyers — just hours before the Bears take on the Packers.

“What a game, what a game,” Quenneville said. “Perfect time. Our game ends and we get to watch it. I think it’s going be very close, very close.”

The Hawks play the Flyers at 11:30 a.m. CT. The Bears and Packers kick off at 2 p.m. A short “open locker room” for the media after the game was suggested, in order for Quenneville to get to a television.

Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau
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If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

Measuring stick stretch begins

Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.

Video: Evgeni Malkin leaves Oilers spinning


Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.

It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.

His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:

These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”

Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.

Lightning’s first fight this season: Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo

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Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.

Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.

It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.

Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.

Oilers GM doesn’t want to force a trade for the sake of a trade

Peter Chiarelli

It must be a helpless feeling to sit idly by while your team continues to flail, but such emotions are what opposing GMs love to prey on.

Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli hasn’t been around through much of the suffering for this hapless franchise, yet that doesn’t mean he’s immune to the calls for improvement. To his credit, he’s not buckling under that pressure.

You can see and hear his full comments below:

If you don’t feel like playing the video, the message is simple enough.

Chiarelli isn’t happy with Edmonton’s record – he hasn’t “seen progression” in ways that he was expecting, but again … he doesn’t want to force moves.

Long story short, he can “sleep at night,” even if he’s disappointed.

Is he right to take a relaxed approach, though? Maybe it’s time to blow up a part of what isn’t working? Have some fun armchair GM’ing on this one.