Chicago Blackhawks

Hello, again: Thanks to former Blackhawks, Marcus Kruger expects easy transition in Carolina

Hello, again: Thanks to former Blackhawks, Marcus Kruger expects easy transition in Carolina

When Marcus Kruger debuted for the Blackhawks at the end of the 2010-11 season, he joined a team that was coming off a Stanley Cup victory/post-Cup purge and was trying to recapture a winning formula. During that time, he gained a wealth of experience and was a valuable part of the Blackhawks’ 2013 and 2015 Cups.

Now he’s the latest former Blackhawks player headed to the Carolina Hurricanes, who hope to turn his and others’ winning pedigrees into success there.

The 27-year-old Kruger joked that, “I’m probably one of the older guys now,” with Carolina. The Hurricanes do have their share of youth but thanks to their offseason moves they also have a strong crop of experience – and Blackhawks. Kruger joins Trevor van Riemsdyk, Scott Darling, Teuvo Teravainen and Joakim Nordstrom, the latter four all part of the 2015 Cup team. They also added Justin Williams, who’s won three Cups (his first came with the Hurricanes in 2006).

“We’re a very young team trying to find its way, and we think the guys we picked up aren’t only just very good players, but also good guys and winners,” Carolina general manager Ron Francis said “That’s invaluable in a locker room.”

Francis and Kruger have talked about the upcoming season but admits Kruger’s role on this team is, “wide open.” Kruger was never a big goal scorer with the Blackhawks but he was a key part of the penalty kill and improved on faceoffs. He was also someone coach Joel Quenneville could count on at critical times. He lined up with Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik during the 2013 run and was part of the play that led to Bolland’s Cup-winning goal in Game 6. He was also on a dependable line with Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins during the 2015 run.

“He’s had a lot of tough assignments and handled those extremely well. It shows his maturity, ability to play in different ways and styles,” Francis said. “It’s the leadership, the on-ice ability to show guys what it takes to be a part of the team and that team is first and foremost important. When you buy into that, there’s more chance of winning. We liked [Kruger] as a player and person and what he brings as a leader as well.”

In reshaping their roster, the Hurricanes wanted more experience and proven winners. Kruger is the latest to bring that.

“You always want to do as much as you can to help the team out. You certainly want to take a step and get better and better,” Kruger said. “I’ll go there, do my best and take the opportunity that’s given. We’ll see how it pays out but I’ll do my best.”

Blackhawks' Alexandre Fortin finding form again after offseason surgery

Blackhawks' Alexandre Fortin finding form again after offseason surgery

Alexandre Fortin was grateful to be back on the ice this weekend, back in Chicago where he wowed the Blackhawks last fall and nearly found a spot on the regular-season roster.

His thoughts are on repeating that camp performance. What he has to keep his mind clear of, however, is the sports hernia and surgery that sidelined him for part of the summer.

“It’s normal. You don’t want to get hurt again,” he said. “When you’re starting in camp like that, everyone’s good so you just have to get to a high level quick. At the same time, you just have to [listen to] your body and do things right.”

When Fortin has been on the ice, however, he’s been impressive. Following Sunday’s outing coach Joel Quenneville talked of the young forward showing the abilities that made him such a pleasant camp surprise in 2016.

“He’s coming off that injury, missed a day and change but [Sunday] all of a sudden he had his legs, his stride back,” Quenneville said. “He’s a fast player who can back off defensemen and this year, this camp, at least we got him out there and captured that speed. He can be useful.”

Fortin had sports hernia surgery in late June; he was present at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp in July but, because of the recent surgery, was limited to off-ice workouts. He was back on ice at the team’s prospect tournament in Traverse City, Mich., where the Blackhawks claimed the tournament title. That helped Fortin feel more comfortable again as he returned for his second Blackhawks camp, but he’ll keep an eye on things to make sure he doesn’t re-aggravate his hernia.

“I’m in good hands here and they know what to do with me,” I just do what they ask me. Camp is long, so we’ll just keep improving every day.”

The good thing is the Blackhawks are again happy with what Fortin is doing, even in his limited work at camp. The problem is there probably won’t be room for him, at least in the early going. The Blackhawks’ depth signings in early July mean a lot of one-way contracts, and other young guys – Alex DeBrincat and John Hayden among them – are also vying for a roster spot.

Fortin will mind his injury but still wants to go through this camp the same way he did the last one, playing his strongest game and looking for an opportunity. Whether it happens now or later, he’s happy to get it.

“I mean, camp is long so you have to focus on what you can see,” Fortin said. “Like [general manager] Stan Bowman and Joel said at the beginning of camp, everybody’s here to make the team and just try to find a way to do that. That’s my plan and I’ll do what I can do and see after.”

BRIEFLY

As they usually do, the Blackhawks will send most of their young players to their first preseason game on Tuesday night in Columbus.  Asked if he would send the Alex DeBrincat-Nick Schmaltz-Patrick Kane combo that has been together the last few days at camp, Quenneville said, “maybe one of those three will go.”

The Blackhawks will start cutting their training camp roster either Wednesday or Thursday.

Blackhawks tidbits: Anisimov on the move, DeBrincat in the 'lottery spot'

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks tidbits: Anisimov on the move, DeBrincat in the 'lottery spot'

There are very few things ever set in stone but entering this training camp, Artem Anisimov at second-line center was as solid a bet as you could make. But Nick Schmaltz’s strong camp has coach Joel Quenneville thinking, tinkering and considering the 21-year-old for that spot alongside Patrick Kane.

A bit of a surprise, for sure, but Quenneville likes the chemistry of Schmaltz and Kane, who have been skating together for part of the summer. As for Anisimov, if he’s the third-line center, he won’t sulk or change his game.

“I’m just going to go out and play and try to score goals and make plays,” he said following Sunday’s scrimmages.

Anisimov is back to 100 percent after admitting he wasn’t that when the Blackhawks entered the first-round series against the Nashville Predators last spring. The center had suffered a leg injury vs. Montreal in mid-March that sidelined him until Game 1 of the playoffs. He’s ready to go after the long offseason, although who his playing partners will be is now somewhat up in the air. On Sunday Anisimov centered Ryan Hartman and Patrick Sharp as Quenneville continues to look at options, not only for the top two lines, but to bolster bottom-six depth as well.

“I think every team needs good depth at center and have a strong three or four lines,” Anisimov said. “It’s helpful in a team game.”

DEBRINCAT’S CHANCE

Alex DeBrincat teamed with Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz during Sunday’s scrimmages, as Quenneville gave the 19-year-old a chance in what he’s calling this season’s “lottery spot.” It was just a first glance at the trio but Quenneville liked what he saw.

“The upside of that could be really big,” said Quenneville. “He’s one of those guys who his instincts are high and he’s playing with a couple of guys who have the same type of instincts. The reading and anticipation off plays, communicating without having to communicate, they know where it’s going to go next and that’s something that will only get better as they get accustomed to playing together.”

Quenneville added that, “we’ll have a couple of days to look at him a little more.” The Blackhawks’ first preseason game is Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

ROZSIVAL’S STATUS

General manager Stan Bowman said on Friday that defenseman Michal Rozsival did not pass his training-camp physical. Quenneville specified on Sunday that Rozsival has an upper-body injury. Asked if Rozsival could miss the season, Quenneville said, “we’ll see.”