White Sox

Blackhawks breakdown: Marcus Kruger

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Blackhawks breakdown: Marcus Kruger

CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

In his rookie season, Marcus Kruger played in 71 games and averaged 15 minutes and 24 seconds of ice time. He scored nine goals with 17 assists for 26 points and finishes plus-11. He had a record of 284-335 on faceoffs for 45.9 percent and was credited with 26 hits. Kruger did not score a point in the playoffs and finished minus-4 in the six-game series vs. Phoenix.

Boden's take: He found a nice niche skating between Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Sharp late in the regular season. For a couple of weeks, that was the Hawks' most dangerous line, and while he didn't light up the scoresheet like his wingers, his defensive responsibility, speed and tenacity in the offensive zone helped him accumulate half of his season point total over the final 27 games (six goals, seven assists, 13 points in that span). But that line didn't even last all of Game 1 vs. Phoenix, and Kruger was completely shut out in six postseason games. He's part of a 2009 draft class that also includes Nick Leddy, Dylan Olsen, Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin (via trade). The other four went in the first two rounds, Kruger not until the fifth (like Andrew Shaw a year ago).

Myers' take: Was Kruger ready for second-line center duties this season? That remains up for debate, but he spent a decent amount of time there nonetheless. Coach Joel Quenneville was high on him all season, and Kruger was solid in many of his outings. Well say this for him: he plays center with a mission, carrying the puck in, shoveling it off to a linemate and then driving straight toward the net. Its a quality fellow Swede Stalberg pointed to as a bonus when they played together some this season. Remember that Kruger was still a rookie, and for a first season his wasnt bad.

2012-13 Expectations

Chris: As he enters the final year of his entry-level contract (900,000 Cap hit), he enters a crucial offseason after his run with Sweden in the World Championships ended. He's listed at 181 pounds and his frame would seem capable of carrying another 10-15 lbs. It's almost necessary the way he was thrown around like a rag doll at times -- part of the reason he missed 11 games. He's highly regarded by the coaching staff and management, but here's the question about his role: If Patrick Kane is your No. 2 center and Dave Bolland is No. 3, is fourth-line center where he's best suited? Or is there a trade made involving him or someone else?

Tracey: As we said before, Kruger has no problem driving to the net. Thats good. But at his size -- 6 foot, 181 lbs. -- hes going to take a pounding. Actually, he already has, as he had two concussions already in 2011-12. Opinions differ on next seasons No. 2 center. GM Stan Bowman was extolling the virtues of Kane there while Quenneville penned Kruger there. Kruger definitely has room to grow, literally and figuratively; he needs to put more weight on that frame. If he does that, and keeps his style of play, hell be a solid center on one of those Blackhawks lines.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out some of Kruger's highlights above.

Previously: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, SteveMontador, Sean O'Donnell, Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy, Patrick Sharp, DanielCarcillo, Andrew Brunette
Up next: Brendan Morrison

White Sox stung by missed chance vs. Indians: 'This one hurts a little bit'

White Sox stung by missed chance vs. Indians: 'This one hurts a little bit'

“This one hurts a little bit.”

Rick Renteria summed it up well.

The White Sox were on national TV, with a chance to take a series from a division rival. They did just enough against the best pitcher in the American League. They came back in somewhat dramatic fashion in another game dripping with playoff feeling. Their ace pitched great and turned it over to what’s been a nigh-untouchable back end of the bullpen.

And then … 

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Despite all that, the White Sox left Guaranteed Rate Field with another loss Sunday night. Instead of leapfrogging back over the Cleveland Indians and back into second place — an unexpected Minnesota Twins losing streak gave the White Sox a chance to be just a game out of first place — they tumbled back to .500 and fourth place in the constantly shifting AL Central standings.

Even in this most unusual season, this is still baseball, and all that can be flipped around tomorrow night. But with a chance to do something big on a national stage, they let one slip away.

Will it be the difference in the division standings come the end of the season? Who knows. But with every game meaning so much in a 60-game sprint to October, this is like dropping two or three in somewhat crushing fashion all at once.

Lucas Giolito was walking guys early and often in this one but settled down brilliantly and ended up relinquishing just two runs in his seven innings. He figured things out midway through and finished with nine strikeouts, including three in his final inning, in which he mowed down that trio of Cleveland batters and strode off the mound screaming.

Meanwhile, the White Sox won their showdown with Shane Bieber, who entered as and probably still is the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award. He added eight more strikeouts to his season total Sunday but gave up three runs. José Abreu hit a solo homer in the second, and James McCann did the same in the sixth. Yasmani Grandal’s RBI double gave the White Sox a lead heading to the late innings with a win in their sights.

But Evan Marshall’s season-starting scoreless streak came to an end in the first inning after Giolito’s departure. That tie spun the game into extra innings, where the league’s new rule putting a runner on second to start every extra frame bit the White Sox in their first experience with it this season. Cleveland only hit one ball out of the infield in Jimmy Cordero’s busy top of the 10th, but they scratched across two runs, including the tie-breaker on a squeeze play.

One run in this new extra-inning reality is almost to be expected. A second is difficult to overcome. The White Sox cashed in their own free runner in scoring position not long after and put runners on base against Cleveland closer Brad Hand. But a 45-minute rain delay washed away that momentum, and the White Sox left the runners where they stood.

RELATED: White Sox at quarter pole: Injuries, starting-pitching woes cloud rest of 2020

Baseball players like to take things one game at a time. They know tomorrow’s a new day in this sport. And they’re not terribly fond of admitting that one opponent means more than any other. But all the circumstances aligned for a golden opportunity Sunday night, and the White Sox felt the sting of letting it slip.

“This one hurts a little bit,” Renteria said. “They all hurt, but this one hurts a little bit because these guys really battled today. … It was a really good ballgame, but we wanted to be on the right side of it.”

The White Sox are already more than a quarter of the way through their season now, with nine of the 20 scheduled games against the Twins and Indians behind them. They won only three of those first nine, losing all three series two games to one.

That’s no way to compete alongside the division’s incumbent powers for a shot at the Central crown. The White Sox seem capable of having the most balanced group of the trio, but so far they’ve been bludgeoned twice by the Twins’ powerful bats and repeatedly silenced by the Indians’ sterling rotation. There’s no other option but to start figuring out how to tango with those elite units.

Sunday was a decent stride in that department, doing more damage against Bieber than the Indians could do against Giolito. But in order to be a contender, every unit has to be firing on all cylinders. Giolito held up his end of the bargain Sunday night, and the offense did what it could to Bieber, which seemed like enough. But games spin on after the starting pitchers depart, and what’s been an excellent White Sox bullpen was touched for three huge runs, while the White Sox offense mustered just six hits on the night compared to 16 strikeouts — half those Ks coming in the game’s final four innings.

As Giolito pointed out, as capable as the White Sox seem on paper, everything needs to click for the White Sox to run with the Twins and Indians.

“I think we stand well,” Giolito said, summing up the White Sox position in the division race. “It's just losses like this are tough. But all we can do is learn from it and move on, take care of business on this next road trip.

“When our offense, pitching and defense comes together, we can beat anybody. We've seen that this year against the Twins and the Indians. We've just got to try to get everything in sync more often.”

With a seemingly ever-growing list of injuries and some big question marks behind Giolito and Dallas Keuchel in the rotation, that will be easier said than done.

They had an opportunity to grab a big one Sunday night. Instead, the White Sox are hurting.


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2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Blackhawks-Golden Knights full first-round schedule

2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Blackhawks-Golden Knights full first-round schedule

The Blackhawks will open the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. CT. You can catch the action on NBC Sports Chicago, starting with Pregame Live at 9 p.m.

The Blackhawks are 1-6-2 all-time against the Golden Knights, who won two of the three matchups this season. The two teams will square off in a best-of-seven series after the Blackhawks eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in four games of the qualifying round to secure the No. 8 seed while the Golden Knights won all three round-robin games to lock up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Check out the full first-round schedule below:

Game 1: Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 9:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Chicago and live stream on MyTeams app)
Game 2: Thursday, Aug. 13 at 4:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Chicago and live stream on MyTeams app)
Game 3: Saturday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. (NBC)
Game 4: Sunday, Aug. 16 at 5:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Chicago and live stream on MyTeams app)
*Game 5: Tuesday, Aug. 18: TBD (NBC Sports Chicago and live stream on MyTeams app)
*Game 6: Thursday, Aug. 20: TBD (NBC Sports Chicago and live stream on MyTeams app)
*Game 7: Saturday, Aug. 22: TBD (NBC Sports Chicago and live stream on MyTeams app)
*If necessary

As the lower seed, the Blackhawks are slated to be the home team for Games 3, 4 and 6. As the higher seed, the Golden Knights will be the home team for Games 1, 2, 5 and 7.

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