Kruger skates, hopes to be cleared soon

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Kruger skates, hopes to be cleared soon

Marcus Kruger isnt ready to get into a game yet, but hes feeling close to it.

Kruger skated for the third consecutive day on Sunday and is hoping to get cleared for contact soon. The Blackhawks center has not played since he took some big hits against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 26 but said hes felt better with each passing day.

Of course you dont want to miss this many games but Ive tried to be patient, Kruger said. I know its going to get better and better and I hope to be back and playing soon.

Kruger said he took two big hits against Columbus, five days after he suffered a concussion when Pittsburgh defenseman Deryk Engelland hit him high. Kruger also suffered a setback last week when he was doing off-ice workouts.

I tried to do some off-ice stuff and I didnt feel as good as I wanted, Kruger said. It was frustrating but the medical team helped me a lot and Ive done everything I can to be back as soon as possible. Today was great.

The Blackhawks have used Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw at second-line center in Krugers absence. Theres no doubt the Swede provided stability there; linemates Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa had lengthy point streaks in December, and a good chunk of that came with Kruger centering them.

We appreciate the consistency in his game, coach Joel Quenneville said. Hes useful in a lot of ways. His production may not be high end but his effectiveness is what you. He can make and see plays as well.

First goal with Blackhawks 'a release' for Tomas Jurco

First goal with Blackhawks 'a release' for Tomas Jurco

Tomas Jurco's reaction to his first goal on Monday night was as much celebration as a little bit of relief. The forward, acquired by the Blackhawks about a month ago, had had a few great scoring chances in recent games but just couldn't capitalize.

Finally, he got that first of the season against Tampa Bay.

"It's kind of a release, you know?" Jurco said on Wednesday. "I've had a lot of good chances and it would just never go in for some reason. Obviously I'm very happy that it went in and hopefully this is the start of, I would say, more luck for me."

Looking for consistency in his own game as well as a consistent spot in the lineup, Jurco was looking for a boost of confidence. Getting that first goal could be part of it, as a bit of a weight disappears with that zero in the goal column. 

"That's a hurdle that can be in the back of your mind a lot and all of a sudden it could be a nice release," coach Joel Quenneville said of that first goal. "He's progressing in our team game, technically. Whether it's his pace of play or going to the right areas quickly, we're looking for progression. We saw it [Monday] night and I think he'll continue to get better off that. But certainly that should help him get confidence as we go along here."

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Jurco's been around the net, something the Blackhawks always encourage, for most of those scoring opportunities. Perhaps some of that puck luck wasn't quite there. But Jurco is gaining confidence in recent games, and getting that goal could boost it that much more.

"I've always said, especially in my case, scoring helps that confidence come easier. It brings that fun to the game," Jonathan Toews said. "Maybe if you're not feeling it or not playing with high energy, at a certain point in a game when you score, for some reason you get that jolt, you get that jump. For [Jurco], he's been playing well when he's been in, and no doubt that scoring a goal like that can help boost confidence and help him find his game, which we know he has and will continue to show."

The scoring hurdle has been cleared and Jurco is gaining confidence. Will he carve out a consistent spot in the lineup? Quenneville has some options through the bottom six. That, coupled with the Blackhawks playing inconsistent hockey lately and missing that four-line rotation, Jurco's been one of several who have been in and out of the lineup. But Quenneville said on Wednesday, "I don't see making constant changes once the [playoffs] begin." If Jurco keeps getting chances and capitalizing on a few, and if he ends up as part of a rotation that's successful again, he could stick.

Jurco waited a little bit for that first goal. He hopes it's just the start.

"You know eventually it's going to go in but it was just frustrating. Another game and another and another with good chances and it just wouldn't go in. So it's a big release," Jurco said. "Hopefully I'll keep going, keep producing."

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