Kruger's defense impressive early

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Kruger's defense impressive early

Marcus Kruger has been as noticeable as any of the Blackhawks in these first three games.
For the young Swedish center, he hasnt gotten attention for his scoring yet. Its been for keeping others from doing that. And he has played that defensive role very well in the early going.
The Blackhawks are off to a 3-0-0 record, and Krugers defensive contributions have been part of that early success. Be it on the fourth line or on the penalty kill that has nixed nine of 10 power plays its faced, Kruger has been defensively sound.
I always try to play that two-way game, Kruger said. Maybe back home (in Sweden) it was more of an offensive role. But when I got over here it was more defensive. Thats something I want to bring more here, the offensive side of the game. But I think thats going to come eventually.
And the penalty-kill work is something Kruger has worked on and enjoyed.
Ive tried to take pride in doing that job and prepare myself for doing that. Weve been doing a pretty good job there, Kruger said. Its off to a good start but its something you have to build on all year.
Coach Joel Quenneville likes what Kruger has done thus far.
Hes been outstanding, he said. There are a lot of guys I can say that about. But 'Krugs' has a purpose to his game. I like his thought process and thats helped his game as well.
Right now, Kruger is centering the fourth line with Brandon Bollig and Michael Frolik. His instincts have served him well on both sides of the puck. It didnt hurt that Kruger spent the lockout playing with the Rockford IceHogs, where he said he played a lot of minutes and in all situations. Michael Frolik, who joins Kruger on the fourth line and the penalty kill, sees a bright future for Kruger.
I think he proved last year hes a good player, said Frolik. Hopefully we score some goals and keep rolling four lines. Hes a good player and hopefully it stays like that.
ASSIST, NO ASSIST
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford was originally given an assist when Duncan Keith was announced as the power-play goal scorer against St. Louis on Tuesday night. But when the goal was eventually awarded to Brent Seabrook it went off his skate Crawford lost his assist.
Oh, they took it away? Crawford said in a postgame interview, when he was told of the change. Oh well, thats fine.
BRIEFLY
Brent Seabrook now has 13 blocks through three games. As of Wednesday afternoon, that was best in the league.
Patrick Kane and Nick Leddy enter Thursday nights game in Dallas on individual three-game point streaks.

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010, and have eliminated the Minnesota Wild from the playoffs three times from 2013-15.

But it's the Wild that NHL coaches believe will win the Western Conference this season as we approach the trade deadline.

In his annual midseason poll, TSN's Bob McKenzie surveyed 25 of 30 coaches to vote on multiple categories, such as the league's best player and the team most likely to win it all.

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According to the survey, 11 coaches predicted the Wild will win the West while the Blackhawks and Sharks tied for second with four votes.

As for winning the Stanley Cup, the Washington Capitals are the favorite, earning 10 votes, followed closely by the reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins with eight. The Wild and Blackhawks rounded out the poll with three and two votes, respectively.

Joel Quenneville earned one vote as the NHL's best coach, which is three fewer votes than he had last year, despite this year being arguably his most challenging — and best — coaching job since arriving in Chicago, given the youth on the roster.

Extra incentive fuels Tanner Kero in second stint with Blackhawks

Extra incentive fuels Tanner Kero in second stint with Blackhawks

Incentive. For many young prospects trying to latch onto an NHL roster, there's already plenty of it there. It's a chance at playing on a bigger stage, a bigger opportunity for a career and, if you're on a two-way contract, a bigger paycheck.

Tanner Kero already had that incentive but in November, received an even more special one: he and his wife welcomed their first child, a boy. Now when Kero plays, it's not just what it means for him. It's what it means for his family.

"It's been a fun experience. It's something a little extra special that you play for," Kero said. "You get your mind away from the game when you go home. You just relax and enjoy that part of life. It's just something extra to play for and it's been special."

Kero has been making the most of his second shot with the Blackhawks, recording two goals and two assists on the Blackhawks' dads trip. That included a three-point night against the Colorado Avalanche and a building chemistry with line mates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa. 

Coach Joel Quenneville likes what he's seen thus far.

"He did a great job for us," Quenneville said. "Defensively, we like his availability in his own end. We like his positioning offensively. He had a nice couple of games to finish the dads trip but he's been good for us. I like the consistency."

Rockford coach Ted Dent said Kero started playing better in November, not long after Kero became a dad. Whether or not that had anything to do with it Dent didn't know, but the results were there nonetheless.

"I think he'd be the first to say his season started off slow with us and he finally caught his stride, maybe 15-20 games into our season," Dent said. "He was skating better, skating stronger, he had more confidence with the puck and things just came together."

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Kero's line is a good blend of familiarity, defense and skill. Kero and Hinostroza are good friends who played together plenty in Rockford. Hossa is... well, Hossa, and pretty much benefits any line mate.

"It's been good," Kero said. "We've been trying to continue, get some secondary scoring. But we also want to be relied on defensively, be counted on to play in big situations, a defensive draw, at the end of a period or end of a game. We're trying to focus on being good defensively, being simple and hard to play against. We're getting fortunate enough to contribute offensively as well."

Hossa, whose game-winning goal in Boston came off a Kero feed, said the 24-year-old is adapting well.

"Since they called him up he took it to his advantage. Right now he's playing the 200-foot game, [he's] real smart in our zone, doesn't panic, makes the right play at the right time, and he's showing more offensive abilities," Hossa said. "It seems like things are going well for him and we're glad we can help as a third line right now in scoring some important goals. With young players, that's definitely big."

Kero's made an impact and an impression with the Blackhawks. Quenneville said on Sunday that, even when Marcus Kruger returns from his injury, Kero will likely remain where he is – "I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

"That comment tells you the trust level he's gained in Kero," Dent said. "I knew over time that Kero was a player that Q was going to love. I've gotten to know Q over the years and in talking to him I know what he likes in players and it was just a matter of time because Kero's a responsible two-way player. He doesn't cheat the game and he's very aware of his defensive responsibilities and that's what Q loves, first and foremost. A lot of us coaches love that."

Kero is making strides in his second stint with the Blackhawks. He already had plenty of incentive to make an impact on this roster. Now a new father, he has that much more of one.