Marcus Kruger took a minute to catch his breath and get a much-needed drink before talking in the locker room.
The Blackhawks center had a hard practice on Monday, with skating and skills development coach Kevin Delaney pushing him hard. It wasnt an easy day for Kruger, whos improving off the concussion he sustained around Christmas. But the more Kruger can do on the ice the closer he gets to playing again, so its all good with him.
Its just doing some conditioning to keep in shape, said Kruger, who has not been cleared for contact yet. It was tough today, but fun. Well see but just day by day.
It was a good sign for Kruger, who has now skated for four consecutive days, including the past two with his teammates. The Blackhawks will be without Patrick Sharp for the next 3-4 weeks with a handwrist injury, so getting Kruger back soon would certainly help.
Yeah, hes doing well, said coach Joel Quenneville. I just spoke to him. Hes progressing every day. He probably has to do more testing (the next few days) but hopefully get him playing here real soon.
Time to talk
The Blackhawks had an optional skate on Monday, with just seven skaters and the two goaltenders participating. The team also had their midseason individual player meetings on Monday. The Blackhawks just passed the halfway mark of their season with Sunday nights game against Detroit, and it was a chance to do their quarterly reviews.
We reflect on how were playing, Quenneville said. Sometimes we get feedback from veteran guys. Basically youre delivering your message and sometimes concentrating on individual things.
When the Blackhawks host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, it will be the second time this season theyve faced a squad fresh off a coaching change. Columbus coach Scott Arniel was fired on Monday; assistant coach Todd Richards was named interim coach.
The Blackhawks faced St. Louis on Nov. 8, the Blues first game with Ken Hitchcock as head coach. St. Louis won that game, 3-0.