Marcus Kruger

Gustav Forsling call-up comes at perfect time for Blackhawks

Gustav Forsling call-up comes at perfect time for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks recalled defenseman Gustav Forsling from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League and placed forward Marcus Kruger (left leg) on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 9, the team announced Tuesday.

Forsling, who underwent wrist surgery in the offseason, was sent to Rockford on Oct. 22 perhaps more-so as a conditioning stint and appeared in five games. He missed four contests with a groin injury, but is coming off a two-assist game against the Chicago Wolves over the weekend.

"It's been a long summer with the injury," Forsling said. "It's good to be finally back here."

The 22-year-old defenseman had three goals and 10 assists in 41 games with the Blackhawks last season before getting assigned to the IceHogs for the remainder of the campaign. He recorded five points (two goals, three assists) in 18 regular-season games and five points (one goal, four assists) in 13 postseason contests, where he really proved himself.

"Happy to have him here," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We think he can help us. He's a fantastic skater, moves the puck clean, with his gap he can really defend lines well, we think he can add something to our group.

"Really pleased with how we played in the playoffs for us in Rockford. He played a huge role, not so much power play, but 5-on-5 and killing penalties and that's probably how we see him here for now. But he can move the puck and he can shoot the puck and he's got a lot of tools. Watching his play down in Rockford since he's come back, he's picked up where he left off and he can play the left and the right side, so it's a positive for our team."

Forsling said Colliton was a "huge" reason why Rockford went on such a deep playoff run last season, but also credited his new coach for the role he played in his development.

"He helped me a lot [in getting] my game to be at the top and I felt like I did very good in the playoffs down there," Forsling said. "He just wanted me to be consistent and show up every night, play good defensively. And I felt like he brought that out of me."

The Blackhawks' roster currently sits at 23 players, meaning they will be carrying eight defensemen for now despite the team's reluctance to do so again this season after it backfired a year ago — Colliton said he's not against the idea, but isn't for it, either. Brandon Davidson (right leg injury) did not practice on Tuesday, which was believed to be a reason for bringing up Forsling, but Colliton dismissed the thought that Forsling is only here for insurance.

"No, we think he can play," Colliton said. "We feel that he's back up to speed and it's up to him to prove himself."

Forsling's call-up certainly comes at a desperate time for the Blackhawks, who have lost eight in a row (0-6-2) and could use all the help they can get on the back end. 

"More competition the better," Colliton said. "It's going to push everyone to be better. Guys got to earn what they get and that's good for our group, that's good for the minimum level of our team. They know they've got to perform every night. It's up to us to be clear with what we're asking from the guys, so when they go out or come out, they know why, they know what they have to do to go in, they know what they have to do to stay in, and I think the overall performance of the team will go up."

Blackhawks deal Marian Hossa's contract, Vinnie Hinostroza in seven-player deal with Coyotes

Blackhawks deal Marian Hossa's contract, Vinnie Hinostroza in seven-player deal with Coyotes

The Blackhawks have traded Marian Hossa’s contract to the Arizona Coyotes in a seven-player deal that includes Vinnie Hinostroza, Jordan Oesterle and a third-round pick in 2019. The deal helped the Blackhawks clear Hossa's $5.275 million cap hit for the next three years and benefits the Coyotes because Hossa's actual salary is only $1 million each year over that span.

In return the Blackhawks will receive forwards Marcus Kruger, MacKenzie Entwistle, Jordan Meletta and defenseman Andrew Campbell and a 2019 fifth-round pick.

"Yeah, obviously really excited," Kruger said of returning to Chicago. "Couldn’t be any more happy. Ready to go and just overall really excited to be back."

It’s not surprising the Blackhawks found a partner to take Hossa’s contract off their hands, given the salary cap floor increased by $3.4 million. But they paid a price they were likely hoping to avoid in attaching Hinostroza, who recently signed a two-year extension with the Blackhawks that carries a cap hit of $1.5 million.

Hinostroza established career highs in all three scoring categories last season with seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points in 50 games. He also had the second-highest points-per-60 minutes average at 5-on-5 for the Blackhawks at 1.98, a rate only Patrick Kane topped at 2.16.

In the grand scheme of things, removing Hossa’s contract from the books gives the Blackhawks flexibility in terms of roster movement going forward, and perhaps allows them to be more open-mind about a potential trade that benefits both the short-term and long-term after a quiet free agency.

The Blackhawks released this statement on Thursday thanking Hossa, who announced in May that he will no longer play hockey due to a skin disorder, for his services and the role he played in helping bring three Stanley Cups to Chicago:

Today is another example of the leadership Marian has displayed as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks organization. When we approached him to discuss the idea of him waiving his no move clause to allow us to make this move, it became clear this was a difficult thing for him to consider. After the success he has had in a Blackhawks jersey, the friends he has made throughout the organization and the fact his heart will always be in Chicago, the thought of disassociating in any way from the team he has come to love was not something he really wanted to give any thought to at all. But, as the consummate team player, he did what he has always done. He did what the team needed him to do in order to succeed.

Marian’s long-term contributions to the club will never be forgotten. His performance as a player was always appreciated, but, it is his special qualities as a teammate, a leader and a person, that will more than anything leave its mark on all of us who have come to love and respect the very humble way he goes about everything he does. He has shown us all the impact we can have on others if we conduct ourselves with character, integrity and utmost respect for all we come in contact with. We have had the pleasure of watching him hoist three Stanley Cups with our team and he will forever be connected to the Blackhawks. On behalf of the entire organization, we would like to thank Marian—a world-class player—for all he has done for the Chicago Blackhawks.

The notable part of the Blackhawks' return is Kruger, who comes back to Chicago after spending last season with Carolina and Arizona. Coyotes general manager John Chayka revealed in a conference call that Kruger played through the season with a sports hernia and underwent surgery in April, which maybe helps explain why he compiled only six points (one goal, five assists) in 48 games while logging a career-low 10:50 of ice time.

"I feel ready to go, so it’s not going to be any problem for training camp or next year," Kruger said. "What went wrong, I don’t know. I wasn’t playing enough, as a team, or me either. I’m really excited to show what I can do and how I can play and get better from it. It was a tough year last year, but going through that I learned a lot and just want to make sure I really prepare here and get better from it and be ready for next year."

As a team, the Blackhawks ranked 21st in faceoff win percentage (49.3) and 20th in penalty kill percentage (79.1), two areas Kruger played a large role in during his first stint in Chicago and will likely ask him to do the same in his second go-around.

"Similar," Kruger responded when asked what he expects his role to be. "Do whatever I get asked to do and play my game. And try to do whatever the coaches want me to do, do that 100 percent and give it my best. That’s all I can do. Obviously they know what kind of player I am. I think playing to my strengths and being a guy they can trust at both ends of the ice. I think it’s going to be exciting and yeah, we both know each other. It’s not going to be a problem."

Big contingent of former Blackhawks helping each other settle in with Hurricanes

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USA TODAY

Big contingent of former Blackhawks helping each other settle in with Hurricanes

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The names of former Blackhawks dotted the Carolina Hurricanes locker room, making those who are here now a lot more comfortable.

“Even Dahly, who was my roommate in Rockford, so we go way back,” said Scott Darling, referring to former Blackhawks defenseman Klas Dahlbeck. “Six of us from Chicago? It’s definitely huge off the ice, definitely makes the transition easier.”

The Hurricanes are the latest team to have a big influx of former Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks on their roster. There are, indeed, six there now: Joakim Nordstrom and Teuvo Teravainen were already there when Darling (rights traded from Chicago), Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk (acquired through the Vegas Golden Knights) arrived over the summer. Dahlbeck was picked up off waivers in October. Off the ice it’s about transitioning to new surroundings. On the ice, the former Blackhawks bring a winning pedigree that the Hurricanes have tried to feed off.

“They’ve had a lot of success in their careers and a lot of them are still young. They’ve been there, they know what it takes,” Carolina forward Jeff Skinner said. “For us in the locker room, anyone who hasn’t [won the Cup], it’s a good opportunity to learn from those guys.”

Hurricanes coach Bill Peters, who coached the IceHogs from 2008-11, said the new acquisitions have been adjusting on and off the ice.

“They’re getting their feet wet. It’s an adjustment period, getting into Raleigh and getting settled in. Once that becomes second nature it allows you to concentrate on simply playing hockey,” he said. “We all know they’re very qualified hockey players. We like the additions we made in the summer and they’re starting to pay off. Guys are settling in and getting comfortable in the way they have to play for us to be successful as a team.”

The Hurricanes are trying to get back among the NHL’s best, and bringing in some of those guys doesn’t hurt. The start of this season, however, the Hurricanes and Blackhawks have been similar in other ways: both teams have gotten good-to-great goaltending, both teams have struggled to score and both know they should be higher in the standings.

“Was hoping for more points than we have so far,” Kruger said. “We’ve had chances to get more and we’ve been giving up [goals] late in games. Hopefully we can just get some victories in a row and build some confidence because I think that’s what we’re lacking right now, especially at the end of games. We’ve been playing well but we have to play well for the whole game. That’s what we’re trying to do here now.”

Trevor van Riemsdyk agreed that overall confidence will get there.

“Especially early on in the year you’re trying to get the confidence in your game and that confidence when it’s tight and it’s late,” he said. “I think we have a lot of guys who are confident in their abilities but just getting those reps and game experience. When you get those wins, there’s nothing like that. You build on it. Throughout the year you just pick up things that you did or didn’t do and hopefully that translates into wins along the way.”

The Hurricanes have had some growing pains this early season. It’s to be expected for a team that has a good amount of youth. But the Blackhawks they acquired have brought a winning pedigree and Carolina hopes it helps build the Hurricanes into a consistent winner again.

“The main thing is [to] learn from them like you would any other teammate but obviously they have a little something more to offer than most guys,” Skinner said of the former Blackhawks. “It’s been fun getting to know them, getting to play with them, and hopefully we can continue to build something good here.”