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.

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Comfortable Kero: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Penguins

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USA TODAY

Comfortable Kero: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Penguins

PITTSBURGH – Well, that looked more familiar, didn’t it?

The Blackhawks put talk into action on Wednesday night, storming out to an early lead and never letting up in a 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’re sitting in a good spot right now, sporting a nine-point lead over the Minnesota Wild – yes the Wild still has that game in hand – and, with five games remaining, they once again played the complete game they’d been missing.

The schedule doesn’t let up, so let’s get to the notables.

What Worked: The Blackhawks’ first period. If there’s such thing as a statement 20 minutes, the Blackhawks made it in Pittsburgh. If the Penguins made a bad pass, the Blackhawks turned it into an opportunity and, a few times, a goal. The Blackhawks had a similarly sharp first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. On Wednesday, however, they didn’t lose any steam later.

What Didn’t Work: The power play. Yeah, you really have to reach to find something that didn’t work for the Blackhawks in this one. Their power play, however, didn’t do much. Their best chance on it was a Jonathan Toews shot on their second power play; that shot was blocked before it got to Marc-Andre Fleury. Their third power play, which came on a phantom tripping call on Conor Sheary, was their quietest of the night.

Star of the game: Tanner Kero. The kid’s been alright at second-line center, and he did a little bit of everything on Wednesday night. Kero had five shots on goal, the secondary assist on Artemi Panarin’s early goal and added a breakaway goal of his own early in the third period. He also won five of 11 faceoffs. Centering Patrick Kane and Panarin could be daunting but in his short time there, Kero’s handling it very well.

He Said It: “It’s a nice opportunity that he’s taken advantage of in a short amount of time. You get a little more defensive responsibility. The upside with him is we wanted him to get better offensively as well, so it’s been a good couple of games.” Coach Joel Quenneville on Kero.

By the Numbers: 

850 – Career coaching victories for Quenneville.

524 – Career goals for Marian Hossa, who scored his 25th of the season late in the first period.

39 – Time, in seconds, in which the Blackhawks scored two goals late in the first period (Marcus Kruger at 19:05 and Marian Hossa at 19:44).

6 – Consecutive victories for the Blackhawks over the Penguins. They’ve outscored the Penguins 20-8 over that span.