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.
Corey Crawford was officially activated from injured reserve on Thursday and will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 23, 2017 when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes.
"It’s exciting," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and we’re all excited about it as well. It’ll be a fun situation for the guys, seeing him back in the net as well. So we’re looking for everyone to be excited about tonight’s game."
The two-time Stanley Cup champion was medically cleared to practice from his concussion on Oct. 1, but the Blackhawks wanted to give Crawford as much time as he needed to get his conditioning and puck-tracking skills up to game speed before putting him into game action.
"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said on Wednesday. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. It was a pretty long process. ... Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."
To make room for Crawford on the 23-man roster, the Blackhawks have assigned forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Brandon Saad, who wore a white healthy scratch jersey all week at practice, will take his spot in the lineup.
For now, the Blackhawks will hang on to Anton Forsberg and carry three goaltenders as insurance as they get ready to start a seven-games-in-11-days stretch.
Crawford was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts in 28 games last season. The Blackhawks were 17-30-8 without him and finished last in the Central Division.
Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.
Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.
Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: