Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Patient Marcus Kruger finally arrives in Chicago

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Blackhawks: Patient Marcus Kruger finally arrives in Chicago

Marcus Kruger had to wait a little longer to get back to Chicago. He couldn’t obtain a visa until he signed his latest contract, a one-year deal he inked earlier this month.

So being patient was important, right?

“Yeah, I think I already got some practice there,” Kruger said with a smile on Saturday night. “So it was OK to wait that extra week.”

Indeed, Kruger had to be a very patient man this offseason, as he waited for the Blackhawks to figure out their salary-cap issues to make room for his new contract. He finally got that deal on Sept. 11. It wasn’t the long-term deal that he and his agent, JP Barry, had hoped for when the summer began. But Kruger, who has now won two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, said he’ll take the short-term one.

[MORE: Brent Seabrook agrees to long-term extension with Blackhawks] 

“I knew the deal from the beginning. I know the situation here and everything, [that] it might be hard,” he said. “I’m happy to sign here again and be a part of this team and this organization again.”

General manager Stan Bowman said he could talk to Kruger and his agent about a longer deal at some point this season.

“I think we both wanted to do a longer-term deal, just weren’t able to fit it in. Luckily he understood that and he wanted to be here. That says a lot for what Marcus is like as a person,” Bowman said during Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues. “During the year, you’re allowed to sign extensions when you get into January. We’ll hopefully have talks then and we’ll see where the cap is at, and what would work. But our goal is to keep him here.”

Kruger said he kept working out and skating in Sweden during the visa process – “I was fortunate to skate with my former team there, the junior team, so I’m thankful for that.”

Coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t expect Kruger to be rusty.

“He’s a hard working type guy; he was skating in Sweden before he got back, waiting to get over here. He looked real good,” Quenneville said. “He’s really excited about being back on the ice [Friday] with his teammates. I’m sure he’ll be excited about playing these last two games.”

Teammates were anticipating his return.

“We’ll give him a hard time for taking so long to get back,” Andrew Shaw said. “But it’ll be good to see him and have him on the ice with us.”

Kruger’s become a vital part of this group. He, Shaw and Andrew Desjardins proved a great fourth-line combination in the postseason and Kruger continued to hone his all-around game, from 5-on-5 to penalty killing to face-offs. If he could expand on that role this season, perhaps even move up a line or two, that’s fine with him.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the 2015-16 Blackhawks season!]

“You always want to get better. That’s my goal every year to get better than the past, and I want to play more and do more for this team and do everything I can,” he said. “That’s my mindset coming into this year, to get better and hopefully I can earn that ice time and earn those chances, too.”

Kruger has practiced the past few days and is expected to play in the Blackhawks’ final two preseason games (Thursday at St. Louis and Oct. 3 vs. the Dallas Stars). Since he’s on a one-year deal, he’ll probably be waiting until next summer to see if he gets another deal, perhaps a long-term one this time. Again, he’s willing to be patient. He’s had plenty of practice at it.

“I’ve got a one-year deal and I’ll try to do my best to maybe in the future get another deal,” he said. “So that’s what I’m aiming for this year and have a good year and I think everything else will sort out.”

BRIEFLY

— The Blackhawks assigned forwards Ryan Haggerty, Mark McNeill, Jeremy Morin and Corey Tropp and defenseman Ville Pokka to the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday afternoon. They also released forwards Chris DeSousa and Pierre-Cedric Labrie, defenseman Kirill Gotovets and goaltenders Mac Carruth and Mark Visentin from training camp. The Blackhawks’ active roster is now at 38.

— The Blackhawks beat the Blues 3-1 on Saturday. Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa each had a goal and an assist and Patrick Kane scored the game-winning goal.

 

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?