Marcus Kruger has waited a very long time for this.
The Blackhawks center, who’s been out since December with a wrist injury that required surgery and more than three months of recovery, no longer has to count his return time in days or weeks.
Now, it’s down to hours.
Kruger was officially activated off injured reserve on Friday and should play on Saturday night when the Blackhawks face the Calgary Flames. Kruger, who is now taking part in every bit of practice, including battle drills, was centering a familiar line with Andrew Desjardins and Andrew Shaw. Those three know each other well from previous time together, so you would think they’d click again immediately, right?
“Well, hopefully pretty fast,” Desjardins said. “We only have a certain amount of games here left. If that is the case we’ll have to get together and find that chemistry.”
It didn’t seem to take too long last postseason. The line was strong from the start and Joel Quenneville wasn’t afraid to throw the trio into pressure situations.
“Hopefully you get some predictability with that line. Responsibility wise, energy-wise, it can really be effective for us. And [the penalty kill], that’s his bread-and-butter, so hopefully he can help us in that regard. It’s definitely been a sore spot for us,” Quenneville said of Kruger. “We know the importance that he can bring to your team. But certainly, he plays the right way and we can be better in the faceoff circle. So [there are] a lot of little intangibles that he adds for a team. We’re looking forward to him being a part of it again.”
So is Kruger. The forward has been skating for a few weeks now and his original return date, which wasn’t supposed to be until the postseason began, continued to be moved up. Kruger said he’s confident he’s 100 percent ready to return.
“If I would play, I would play all out,” Kruger said. “If I played [in Calgary], I’d be ready to do everything I can. There’s no such thing as easing into it. You got to go all out; otherwise you’re not going to be effective out there.”
As Quenneville said, Kruger adds in several categories. He was a big part of the Blackhawks’ penalty kill, which has been shaky to unreliable for a while now. He can also add some faceoff victories. Before getting hurt, Kruger was winning 49.7 percent of his faceoffs, second only to Jonathan Toews (58.5 percent).
Kruger is ready to return to help the Blackhawks, who could use his help right now. It’s been a very long wait for Kruger, who has never experienced a lengthy injury prior to this. He’s spent plenty of time preparing; he expects he’ll return to form soon.
“The thing I try to worry about — let’s go out there and play the same game I’ve been doing before and that’s what I expect from me,” Kruger said. “We have a little bit of a rough patch here the last few games. But I think we’ve talked a lot about it as a group and I think we’ve all got to do a little bit more. I think we’re going to be all right.”