Marcus Kruger brings balance, PK help to Blackhawks


Marcus Kruger brings balance, PK help to Blackhawks

ST. PAUL, Minnesota – Marcus Kruger was ready to come back, even if that meant playing two games in as many days.

“I’m not going to lie. I was probably a little more sore than I usually am after a back to back,” Kruger said with a smile. “I think that’s something I expected a little bit. But it’s just good to get back into it right away.”

After being out more than three months with a wrist injury Kruger returned on a back-to-back weekend against Calgary and Vancouver. Tiring? Sure. But for a player who sat on the sidelines longer than he ever had in his career previously, just being back was exhilarating.

[RELATED - Duncan Keith could be suspended into playoffs]

And there’s no doubt the Blackhawks missed him.

“Happy to have him back,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He makes a difference to our team game. He handled the situation well and [got] important ice time when the games were on the line both nights throughout. He certainly gives that energy and the predictability that you want from a line or your team. It gives you a lot of options over the course of a game.”

Kruger has helped bring more balance to the Blackhawks’ lineup. He, Andrew Desjardins and Andrew Shaw found their 2015 postseason chemistry again relatively quickly. And Kruger has also helped a penalty kill that was struggling mightily in recent weeks. In Kruger’s three games back, the Blackhawks have gone 7-for-7 on the kill.

“That’s a good plus coming to the playoffs. I think Krugsie’s a big part of it for a few years and him [coming] back, he understands the system and he’s well known on the system. And to have a penalty-killer like that has definitely helped that whole unit,” Marian Hossa said. “I think overall we’ve been more on the same page. We’re putting more pressure on the players and we don’t just wait.”

Kruger didn’t take many face-offs in his first game back – he had just four against Calgary – but that total has increased in his last two games. Line mates Desjardins and Shaw have helped in that department, too.

“Even last year we’d switch strong-side draws, which helps our percentage and puck possession. It’s something we’re going to need down the stretch,” said Shaw, who said Kruger didn’t skip a beat in his return. “He looked good. He made some smart plays. Obviously he’s strong defensively, great on the PK and we expect him to get better and better.”

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

Kruger didn’t know how he would react to his first game or two back. He found out quickly off that back-to-back that he’s reacting just fine.

“It’s good to be back again and playing games again. I’ve been skating for a while but you never know how it’ll be when you’re out there in game situation,” Kruger said. “Obviously it felt good.”

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center


Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

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.

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals


Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

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: