Marcus Kruger isnt ready to get into a game yet, but hes feeling close to it.
Kruger skated for the third consecutive day on Sunday and is hoping to get cleared for contact soon. The Blackhawks center has not played since he took some big hits against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 26 but said hes felt better with each passing day.
Of course you dont want to miss this many games but Ive tried to be patient, Kruger said. I know its going to get better and better and I hope to be back and playing soon.
Kruger said he took two big hits against Columbus, five days after he suffered a concussion when Pittsburgh defenseman Deryk Engelland hit him high. Kruger also suffered a setback last week when he was doing off-ice workouts.
I tried to do some off-ice stuff and I didnt feel as good as I wanted, Kruger said. It was frustrating but the medical team helped me a lot and Ive done everything I can to be back as soon as possible. Today was great.
The Blackhawks have used Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw at second-line center in Krugers absence. Theres no doubt the Swede provided stability there; linemates Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa had lengthy point streaks in December, and a good chunk of that came with Kruger centering them.
We appreciate the consistency in his game, coach Joel Quenneville said. Hes useful in a lot of ways. His production may not be high end but his effectiveness is what you. He can make and see plays as well.
After being on the receiving end of some racist taunts while he was in the penalty box during Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly spoke publicly about the incident.
Smith-Pelly, a 25-year-old Canadian, reacted to the fans while he was in the box, going up to them from the other side of the glass. He addressed questions from the media about the incident on Sunday.
"I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting," Smith-Pelly said. "You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset.
"What was said this time around crossed the line."
The Capitals released a statement about the incident:
"The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."
The Blackhawks released a statement after the game with a similar tone.
Smith-Pelly said this has happened previously in his career.
"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over," Smith-Pelly said. "It's sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working towards it I guess and we're going to keep working towards it."
The Capitals released the full interview.
Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.
Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.
Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:
After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:
Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident: