Marcus Kruger

Marcus Kruger joins the Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Marcus Kruger joins the Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Throughout the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Chicago will be unveiling its Blackhawks All-Decade Team. The roster will feature the 14 forwards, 7 defensemen and two goaltenders that made the biggest impact on the franchise from the 2010 through 2019 seasons.

Stanley Cup winning teams always have a number of unsung heroes. Players that do a lot of the dirty work and get very little of the glory and attention. Marcus Kruger was one of those players, but still, his career is defined by one major moment.

At 1:08 a.m. CT on May 20, 2015, Kruger cemented his legacy with the Blackhawks, burying a rebound off a Brent Seabrook shot, ending the longest game in Blackhawks franchise history. It was Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, and Kruger notched his first career overtime goal, giving the team new life in a series they ultimately went on to win.

Kruger featured in 472 career games with the Blackhawks between 2010 and 2019, and played in an additional 87 in the playoffs. For a guy who never even reached 30 points in a single-season — amassing just 123 in his entire career — he certainly left a lasting impact on the ice and with teammates.

“He was a crucial part [of] those Stanley Cup runs. Coming back to Chicago the way he did too, the way Joel [Quenneville] relied on him to kill penalties and win draws and do those things,” Jonathan Toews said at the 2019 Blackhawks Convention. “I’d say Krugs is another one of those guys that just runs right into the mess, right into the corner, takes a beating, you know he’s not the biggest guy, but he just found a way to get things done out there.

"I think Chicago fans have always kind of been great about recognizing that in a player and seeing what they bring to the team and seeing that work ethic. I think they’ll definitely remember that and value that down the road.”

Kruger will certainly be remembered as the anchor on the fourth line for some terrific Blackhawks teams, and for that, he is recognized as the fourth member of the Blackhawks All-Decade team as — fittingly enough — the fourth line center.

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How all 13 Blackhawks performed at 2019 IIHF World Championship

How all 13 Blackhawks performed at 2019 IIHF World Championship

The Blackhawks had 13 players represent the organization at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. Here's how each of them performed, sorted by country:

Canada (Final ranking: Silver medal)

— Dylan Strome ... In his first career IIHF World Championship, Strome had five points (one goal, four assists) in 10 games. He also had a plus-1 rating, 12 shots on goal and averaged 11:59 of ice time. Strome ranked fifth among all centers with a faceoff win percentage of 63.3.

Czech Republic (Final ranking: 4th)

— Dominik Kubalik ... Kubalik, whose rights were acquired by the Blackhawks from Los Angeles in January, finished eighth among all skaters in scoring with 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 10 games and his plus-10 rating was tied for fourth overall. He also recorded 28 shots on goal and averaged 13:55 of ice time.

Denmark (Final ranking: 11th)

— Mathias From ... From, who was drafted in the fifth round (No. 143rd overall) in 2016, was pointless in four games. He was a minus-1 rating, had one shot on goal and averaged 5:02 of ice time.

Finland (Final ranking: Gold medal)

— Henri Jokiharju ... Jokiharju compiled three points — all assists — in 10 games. He also had a plus-1 rating, 13 shots on goal and averaged 11:44 of ice time. He and Kaapo Kakko became the seventh and eighth players in IIHF history to win gold at the Under-18s, World Junior and World Championship in their career. They also became the first players since Jonathan Toews (2007) to win the World Junior and World Championship in the same year.

— Kevin Lankinen ... Lankinen was the breakout star of the tournament. The 24-year-old ranked first in goals against average (1.50), second in save percentage (.942) and tied for first in shutouts (2). He was named player of the game in the semifinal contest against Russia with a 32-save shutout then stopped 43 of 44 shots for a save percentage of .978 in the gold medal game against Canada.

Germany (Final ranking: 6th)

— Dominik Kahun ... Kahun was one of Germany's most productive players. He racked up five points (one goal, four assists), ranked second on the team in shots on goal (16) and averaged 19:18 of ice time. He finished with a minus-1 rating in eight games.

Norway (Final ranking: 12th)

— Andreas Martinsen ... Martinsen, who's set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, was tied for the scoring lead on Norway with six points — all assists — in seven games. He had a minus-1 rating, 11 shots on goal and averaged 15:28 of ice time. Coaches voted him one of the three best players on Norway at the end of the tournament.

Russia (Final ranking: Bronze medal)

— Artem Anisimov ... Anisimov recorded six points (four goals, two assists) in 10 games, and tallied one game-winning goal. He also registered 14 shots on goal and averaged 14:25 of ice time. His plus-11 rating was tied for third among all skaters.

Sweden (Final ranking: 5th)

— Erik Gustafsson ... He had four points (two goals, two assists) and a plus-5 rating in eight games. His 25 shots on goal ranked first on Team Sweden and 18:29 average time on ice ranked sixth.

— Marcus Kruger ... Kruger, who's set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, scored two goals — one of which was a game-winner — and added an assist in eight games. He was one of four players on the team that had a negative rating (minus-3). Kruger averaged 10:37 of ice time and ranked 15th among center with a faceoff win percentage of 59.2.

Switzerland (Final ranking: 8th)

— Philipp Kurashev ... Kurashev, who was taken in the fourth round (No. 120 overall) in 2018, accumulated four points (one goal, three assists) in eight games. His plus-4 rating also ranked tied for third on the team. Kurashev registered eight shots on goal and averaged 11:02 of ice time.

United States (Final ranking: 7th)

— Alex DeBrincat ... DeBrincat picked up right where he left off with the Blackhawks. He finished second among all skaters in goals (7) despite playing in eight games, and compiled nine points. Two of his goals were game-winners and three of them came on the power play. His shooting percentage was 43.8.

DeBrincat now has 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 18 career tournament games. 

— Patrick Kane ... After being named tournament MVP in 2018, Kane also didn't skip a beat. He averaged 1.50 points per game with two goals and 10 assists in eight contests, and led his country in shots on goal (28) and forwards in ice time (22:26 per game).

The three-time Stanley Cup champion surpassed U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Johnson for most points (33) in World Championship history. Kane pulled away even further by the end of the tournament, totaling 42 points in 25 career IIHF World Championship games.

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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."