Marcus Kruger has been itching to play for a while now.
The center participated in Sunday and Tuesday morning's skates but didn't have a full, regular practice with the Blackhawks until Wednesday. Now that he has, it looks like he'll finally get back into the lineup.
Kruger is likely to play and Scott Darling will start when the Blackhawks host the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. There was a chance Kruger got in on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lighting, especially when Dennis Rasmussen was ill that morning. But despite being taken off the injured reserve list Tuesday afternoon, Kruger didn't go against the Bolts.
With the Blackhawks playing their final game before the All-Star break on Thursday, coach Joel Quenneville is looking to get Kruger back in the lineup.
"The goal is to play as soon as possible," Kruger said following Wednesday's practice. "I prepared for [Tuesday] but it was good Rass recovered and could play. Same thing tomorrow. I'm ready."
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Kruger centered a line with Marian Hossa on Wednesday. Andrew Desjardins and Jordin Tootoo took turns at left wing. Tanner Kero centered Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz as part of the bottom-six line changes. The Blackhawks' top two lines remained the same.
Darling last started on Friday, when he recorded a 30-stop shutout in the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins. That, combined with Corey Crawford's continuing struggles following his appendectomy, led Quenneville to turn to Darling for Thursday.
"Darls earned the start based on how well he played the other day in Boston," Quenneville said. "Crow's game last game was something that gives us some consideration based on Darls' last game. Put it all together, and that's where we're at."
As for Rasmussen, he did not practice on Wednesday due to illness. Quenneville said he's questionable against Winnipeg.