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Kruger nearing return

Sunday, 01.08.2012 / 3:26 PM
By Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent / The Blackhawks Blog
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Kruger nearing return


Kruger
CHICAGO -- He won't play on Sunday night against the Detroit Red Wings, but Chicago Blackhawks rookie center Marcus Kruger went through the team's morning skate on Sunday at the United Center.

It was the first team-oriented session he's been able to participate in since the morning skate on Dec. 26 prior to playing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

That game was Kruger's first back after a suspected concussion resulting from an illegal hit by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland forced him to miss a Dec. 21 game against the Montreal Candiens. The Blue Jackets hit Kruger hard twice in the first period of that game and he hasn't played since -- a span of five straight games -- despite finishing the Columbus game and totaling 14:23 of ice time.

"I feel good," said Kruger, who still isn't cleared for contact yet. "It's good to be back with the guys on the ice. It's been awhile, but it feels good."

Kruger appeared to regress in his recovery last Tuesday, when he couldn't finish his off-ice workouts because of the symptoms, but ever since he's shown improvement each day.

"That was frustrating, but the medical team has helped me a lot and I've done everything I can to be back as soon as possible," said Kruger, who'd been centering the second line between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa before the injury. "Today was just great to be back on the ice."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville is pleased with the progress Kruger's making and is probably anxious to get the energetic 21-year old back in the middle of his second forward line. Kruger began skating on his own Friday and has continued to make progress.

"We appreciate the consistency in his game and he's useful in a lot of ways," Quenneville said of Kruger, who has three goals and 10 assists in 34 games played. "His production might not be high-end, but his effectiveness is what you appreciate and the consistency in his game. Positionally around the ice he's in the right spots to make plays and see plays, as well."