Bears

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

Eddy Piñeiro is quietly finding his form again, another sign that he's cut out for this

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USA Today

Eddy Piñeiro is quietly finding his form again, another sign that he's cut out for this

As a large group of TV cameras gathered around Charles Leno Jr.’s space in the Bears’ locker room, Eddy Pineiro quickly finished getting dressed in the shadows to Leno’s left. The kicker’s stayed out of the spotlight since losing the trust of his head coach on a nationally-televised game three weeks ago, but he’s played as well as anyone during the Bears’ three-game return to relevance. 

“Yeah, I would definitely say I’m more confident,” he said after the Bears’ 31-24 win on Thursday night. “There’s just good rhythm – good snap, good hold.” 

He hasn’t had to attempt a kick over 40 yards (!!) over the three games, but Pineiro’s accuracy issues, at least for now, seem at bay. He hit all five of his kicks against the Cowboys – four extra points and one 36-yard field goal. The kicker hasn’t missed a field goal (5-5) since LA, and has gone 9-10 on extra points. More importantly, they haven’t lost since either. 

“Oh yeah, it feels great,” Pineiro said. “Everyone in the locker room is super excited and happy. Everybody’s in a good mood. When you win, everybody’s in a good mood.” 

He hasn’t been physically tested much over the last month, but just ask Aldrick Rosas or Brett Maher how easy kicking at Soldier Field – even in nice conditions – is. The Bears have always loved Pineiro’s response to adversity, and it’s starting to look like he’s rewarded them again. 

“Just gaining experience, honestly,” he said. “I think the biggest thing for me has just been gaining experience. Playing the game, I obviously don’t have the most experience, but I think trying to gain that experience has been the biggest thing for me.” 

Pineiro mentioned that he’s still getting used to the adjustments that come with kicking in colder temperatures – which may help explain some of his more recent lackluster kickoffs. It’s easy to see how a nationally-televised game in unusually pleasant conditions could have been a trap for a young player who’s maybe pressing a bit, but after getting the full Bears Kicker Experience stuffed into half a season, Pineiro knows better. 

“In my opinion, you’ve got to play well in every single game,” he said. “[it’s] not like just because you’re on national TV, you’ve got to play better. It felt good to get out there and hit a couple kicks.” 

Otto Porter Jr. remains out indefinitely for Bulls, reassessed in 2 weeks

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USA Today

Otto Porter Jr. remains out indefinitely for Bulls, reassessed in 2 weeks

The wait for Otto Porter Jr. continues.

The Bulls announced Friday that their starting small forward will be reassessed in two weeks after a repeat MRI of his left foot showed "continued bone edema." That's basically a bone bruise, which has sidelined Porter since Nov. 6. Coach Jim Boylen said Porter will wear a walking boot "for a bit" and then will visit a specialist. In a release, the team said that's Dr. Bob Anderson, the same Green Bay, Wis.-based surgeon who reconstructed Denzel Valentine's left ankle.

Chandler Hutchison also remains out with his bruised shoulder, although Hutchison is working out individually. Kris Dunn has been starting for the Bulls alongside Tomas Satoransky and Zach LaVine.

Boylen also said Thad Young will miss Friday's matchup with the Warriors because of personal reasons and will meet the Bulls in Miami, where they play the Heat on Sunday.