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.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”