Kruger to make debut; Campbell returning?

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Kruger to make debut; Campbell returning?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Posted: 12:13 p.m. Updated: 12:49 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The thought of joining an NHL team right away would sway a lot of 20-year-old players. But Marcus Kruger had made up his mind: he had contractual obligations in Sweden, and he wasnt coming to the Chicago Blackhawks until they were filled.

Now they are, and now hes here.

Kruger, who general manager Stan Bowman wanted to join the Blackhawks after prospect camp, will make his NHL debut tonight when the Blackhawks host the Florida Panthers at the United Center. Kruger got to Chicago around noon on Tuesday; hell center a line with Bryan Bickell and Troy Brouwer tonight.

I got here (yesterday) and it feels great to finally be here and doing what I can to help the team, said Kruger, who considers himself a two-way player. I just play my game. I keep the puck and do what I can to help the team. Whatever the coaches want me to do Ill do 100 percent.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said he put the full-court press on Kruger to join the Blackhawks entering this season; he even recruited fellow Swede Niklas Hjalmarsson to try and change Krugers mind. But Kruger felt he needed another season in his home country, so he stayed.

In 52 games with Djurgarden, he had six goals and 29 assists.

I was committed to a contract back in Sweden, he said. Thats something I wanted to do and Ive done that. It was based on that.

Kruger fills a void left by Dave Bolland, whos still dealing with concussion issues. But Bowman said they planned to bring Kruger in sometime this season, regardless of injuries.

Hes a responsible center who can play both ways, Bowman said. Two years ago he was a rookie in the Swedish league and was one of the best. Thats very impressive for a player at that age to be that good over there.

He can do a little bit of everything offensively, defensively and kill penalties. Hes just a smart player with good instincts, anticipation. The question for him was handling the strength side of it. But just from last summer, seeing him today, it looks like hes gotten stronger and developed a bit.

Krugers biggest adjustment will be playing on the smaller North American rink, but his hockey smarts are considered a big asset for him. Coach Joel Quenneville told Kruger to use those tonight.

We kind of told him, Tonight, trust your instincts, play your game. Your strength is your anticipation and your mindset. Positionally he should be fine, Quenneville said. Theres some upside to his game. We watched him in prospect camp and he just looks like he wants the puck and it looks like hell be pretty handy with it as well.

Campbell in?

Brian Campbell (left foot) skated this morning and said he felt much better. He said there was a good chance he could play tonight against Florida.

I havent ruled on it 100 percent but I feel theres a good shot at it, he said. I felt good this morning and all day yesterday. Thats something that hasnt happened before so thats a good sign.

Quenneville said Campbell looked much better this morning.

He pushed himself more than he did yesterday, he said. He looks ready to go tonight and hopeful hes likely to play.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.