Blackhawks breakdown: Marcus Kruger


Blackhawks breakdown: Marcus Kruger Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

In his rookie season, Marcus Kruger played in 71 games and averaged 15 minutes and 24 seconds of ice time. He scored nine goals with 17 assists for 26 points and finishes plus-11. He had a record of 284-335 on faceoffs for 45.9 percent and was credited with 26 hits. Kruger did not score a point in the playoffs and finished minus-4 in the six-game series vs. Phoenix.

Boden's take: He found a nice niche skating between Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Sharp late in the regular season. For a couple of weeks, that was the Hawks' most dangerous line, and while he didn't light up the scoresheet like his wingers, his defensive responsibility, speed and tenacity in the offensive zone helped him accumulate half of his season point total over the final 27 games (six goals, seven assists, 13 points in that span). But that line didn't even last all of Game 1 vs. Phoenix, and Kruger was completely shut out in six postseason games. He's part of a 2009 draft class that also includes Nick Leddy, Dylan Olsen, Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin (via trade). The other four went in the first two rounds, Kruger not until the fifth (like Andrew Shaw a year ago).

Myers' take: Was Kruger ready for second-line center duties this season? That remains up for debate, but he spent a decent amount of time there nonetheless. Coach Joel Quenneville was high on him all season, and Kruger was solid in many of his outings. Well say this for him: he plays center with a mission, carrying the puck in, shoveling it off to a linemate and then driving straight toward the net. Its a quality fellow Swede Stalberg pointed to as a bonus when they played together some this season. Remember that Kruger was still a rookie, and for a first season his wasnt bad.

2012-13 Expectations

Chris: As he enters the final year of his entry-level contract (900,000 Cap hit), he enters a crucial offseason after his run with Sweden in the World Championships ended. He's listed at 181 pounds and his frame would seem capable of carrying another 10-15 lbs. It's almost necessary the way he was thrown around like a rag doll at times -- part of the reason he missed 11 games. He's highly regarded by the coaching staff and management, but here's the question about his role: If Patrick Kane is your No. 2 center and Dave Bolland is No. 3, is fourth-line center where he's best suited? Or is there a trade made involving him or someone else?

Tracey: As we said before, Kruger has no problem driving to the net. Thats good. But at his size -- 6 foot, 181 lbs. -- hes going to take a pounding. Actually, he already has, as he had two concussions already in 2011-12. Opinions differ on next seasons No. 2 center. GM Stan Bowman was extolling the virtues of Kane there while Quenneville penned Kruger there. Kruger definitely has room to grow, literally and figuratively; he needs to put more weight on that frame. If he does that, and keeps his style of play, hell be a solid center on one of those Blackhawks lines.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out some of Kruger's highlights above.

Previously: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, SteveMontador, Sean O'Donnell, Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy, Patrick Sharp, DanielCarcillo, Andrew Brunette
Up next: Brendan Morrison

MLB official: World Series Game 2 to 'start on time' despite potential rain

MLB official: World Series Game 2 to 'start on time' despite potential rain

CLEVELAND -- Game 2 of the World Series is on -- for now.

With rain forecast for late Wednesday night, Major League Baseball officials said they have a contingency plan in place to suspend the contest in case it is disrupted by weather. MLB has only suspended one other World Series contest, Game 5 of the 2008 edition between the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies.

MLB already made an early decision Tuesday to move up Wednesday’s start time by an hour to 6:08 p.m. CST in order to improve chances of avoiding the weather. The current forecast calls for steady rain to start falling at 9 p.m. CST.

“The plan right now is to start on time,” said MLB’s Peter Woodfork. “Right now we hope it’s light, nothing heavy.

“As long as the field holds up, the integrity of the field, we’ll continue to play. If something happens and we can’t go, we’ll pull the tarp and see where we’re at. Most likely if it’s that heavy, we’re going to have to suspend the game and finish tomorrow.”

Woodfork said MLB wouldn’t announce a potential re-start for Game 2 until later Wednesday night, if necessary.

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Cubs manager Joe Maddon and utility man Ben Zobrist were part of the 2008 Tampa Bay squad that waited two days for Game 5 to resume. Maddon said the Rays had already checked out of their hotel in preparation for the return trip to Tampa Bay for Game 6 and didn’t find a new hotel until after 1 a.m.

“You just have to play the game,” Maddon said. “There’s not a whole lot you can do about it. It’s one of those uncontrollable components. The game in Philadelphia was pretty severe. I don’t think it’s going to be Philadelphia-like weather conditions tonight. That game was very awkward to play. The rain was horizontal. It was freezing. There was actually standing water on the field.”

Woodfork said the current plan calls for Game 3 to begin on time in Chicago on Friday regardless if Thursday’s travel day is wiped out by a resumed game.

“When you’re playing the World Series, the weather is secondary,” Zobrist said.

Major League Soccer playoff preview and predictions


Major League Soccer playoff preview and predictions

It’s playoff time in MLS.

The local team may be looking towards the offseason, but 12 of the league’s teams are heading into the postseason.

Two games tonight and two games tomorrow comprise the single-elimination first round. Four more teams are waiting to face those winners in the conference semifinals. Here’s a brief look at each of the four first round games and an MLS Cup prediction. (Fair warning: check out my MLS season preview to see how pointless the exercise of predicting MLS is.)

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union, Wednesday 6:30 p.m.

Neither team has ever won a playoff game so that will end for one of these two. Both struggled to close the regular season. Philadelphia is winless in seven straight. Meanwhile, Toronto’s only wins in the last seven were two wins against the last-place Fire. Still, with reigning MVP Sebastian Giovinco back from injury, Toronto could make a deep run in these playoffs.

Pick: Toronto

LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, Wednesday 9:30 p.m.

The Galaxy finished with a league-leading 16 ties and had a 3-3-8 record in the final 14 matches. Nothing about that says title contender, but LA still has a talented roster. Like Philly, RSL enters the playoffs on a seven-game winless streak. Look for an LA win because they’ve lost at home just once this season.

Pick: LA

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact, Thursday 6:30 p.m.

D.C. closed the regular season on a strong run, winning four in a row before losing its finale. Patrick Mullins has been a huge boost at forward since joining midseason. Montreal is without Didier Drogba, who appears to be leaving the club. This seems like the most unpredictable of the four first round matches, but stick with the hot hand.

Pick: D.C.

Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City, Thursday 9:00 p.m.

Seattle enters as the hottest team in the league. The 8-2-4 record since Nicolas Lodeiro’s arrival, which has also been boosted by the return of center back Roman Torres, makes the Sounders a trendy pick for a strong playoff run. Kansas City is never an easy out in the playoffs, but going into a packed crowd in Seattle while the team is playing as well as anyone in the league is a lot to overcome.

Pick: Seattle

MLS Cup prediction

FC Dallas won the Supporters’ Shield in the regular season, but is without MVP candidate Mauro Diaz for the playoffs. That could be enough of a blow to allow a team like Seattle to knock them off in the next round. Colorado, No. 2 seed in the West, is a defensive team that peaked in the first half of the year. LA against the Rapids in a conference semi would be intriguing, but I think Seattle takes either out to go to MLS Cup.

In the Eastern Conference the New York Red Bulls have been the most consistent team in the league since a 1-6 start. The Red Bulls carry a 16-match unbeaten streak into the playoffs and should be able to get by either D.C. or Montreal. In the other semi, New York City FC and Toronto is an enticing potential matchup. Both can be fun teams to watch when things are clicking. That’s a tough one to pick, but the Red Bulls should be the favorite.

Pick: Red Bulls over Sounders