Tough practice has Kruger nearing a return

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Tough practice has Kruger nearing a return

Marcus Kruger took a minute to catch his breath and get a much-needed drink before talking in the locker room.

The Blackhawks center had a hard practice on Monday, with skating and skills development coach Kevin Delaney pushing him hard. It wasnt an easy day for Kruger, whos improving off the concussion he sustained around Christmas. But the more Kruger can do on the ice the closer he gets to playing again, so its all good with him.

Its just doing some conditioning to keep in shape, said Kruger, who has not been cleared for contact yet. It was tough today, but fun. Well see but just day by day.

It was a good sign for Kruger, who has now skated for four consecutive days, including the past two with his teammates. The Blackhawks will be without Patrick Sharp for the next 3-4 weeks with a handwrist injury, so getting Kruger back soon would certainly help.

Yeah, hes doing well, said coach Joel Quenneville. I just spoke to him. Hes progressing every day. He probably has to do more testing (the next few days) but hopefully get him playing here real soon.

Time to talk

The Blackhawks had an optional skate on Monday, with just seven skaters and the two goaltenders participating. The team also had their midseason individual player meetings on Monday. The Blackhawks just passed the halfway mark of their season with Sunday nights game against Detroit, and it was a chance to do their quarterly reviews.

We reflect on how were playing, Quenneville said. Sometimes we get feedback from veteran guys. Basically youre delivering your message and sometimes concentrating on individual things.

Briefly

When the Blackhawks host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, it will be the second time this season theyve faced a squad fresh off a coaching change. Columbus coach Scott Arniel was fired on Monday; assistant coach Todd Richards was named interim coach.

The Blackhawks faced St. Louis on Nov. 8, the Blues first game with Ken Hitchcock as head coach. St. Louis won that game, 3-0.

Ryan Hartman returns for Blackhawks vs. Penguins

Ryan Hartman returns for Blackhawks vs. Penguins

PITTSBURGH — Ryan Hartman has played on the right side of that line for most of this season. Now back in the lineup, he knows he has to stay on it.

Hartman will play after missing Monday's game as a healthy scratch when the Blackhawks face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. Hartman took a few bad penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct, against the Florida Panthers last weekend, so he sat vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning. The rookie knows he has to get back to the more disciplined hockey he's played most of the season. 

"I don't change my game. I think you take the message and deliver the message," Hartman said. "Obviously, no one likes to not play, everyone wants to play games and no one likes to sit out games. It's definitely something that I took to heart. I'm just going to go out there and just try to play like I've been playing and get on the scoresheet. Just stay off it for the wrong reasons."

Coach Joel Quenneville said Hartman has to stay on the right side of the line.

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"Know there are boundaries and sometimes you get watched a little bit more," Quenneville said. "The way they're calling the game, the way it's being officiated, be respectful. You still have to be hard to play against and find that limit, how far you can push it but you get a good feel on that early in games."

The Penguins are on a three-game winless streak (0-2-1) and are dealing with some injuries. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that, while Evgeni Malkin (shoulder) is close to returning, he won't play against the Blackhawks.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports app
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks lines

Nick Schmaltz-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Tanner Kero-Patrick Kane
Ryan Hartman-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
John Hayden-Dennis Rasmussen-Tomas Jurco

Defensive pairs 

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Johnny Oduya-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries 

Artem Anisimov (left leg)

Penguins lines

Conor-Sheary-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust
Chris Kunitz-Nick Bonino-Patric Hornqvist
Scott Wilson-Carter Rowney-Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl-Oskar Sundqvist-Josh Archibald

Defensive pairs

Brian Dumoulin-Justin Schultz
Ian Cole-Chad Ruhwedel
Cameron Gaunce-Mark Streit

Goaltender

Marc-Andre Fleury

Injuries

Evgeni Malkin (shoulder), Trevor Daley (knee), Daniel Sprong (shoulder), Jake Guentzel (concussion), Olli Maatta (hand), Kris Letang (upper body), Carl Hagelin (foot), Ron Hainsey (upper body)

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd discuss the latest slump and how much does Artem Anisimov's injury play a role in their struggles?

Konroyd tells us he was surprised by Ryan Hartman's benching in Tampa.

The guys play the game, playoff minutes or press box minutes?  They run through the players who are on the bubble when it comes to postseason play.

They also discuss the Hawks chances of overtaking Washington for the President's trophy.

Plus, Konroyd breaks down possible first round opponents: St Louis, Calgary and Nashville.