Kruger to make debut; Campbell returning?

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Kruger to make debut; Campbell returning?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Posted: 12:13 p.m. Updated: 12:49 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The thought of joining an NHL team right away would sway a lot of 20-year-old players. But Marcus Kruger had made up his mind: he had contractual obligations in Sweden, and he wasnt coming to the Chicago Blackhawks until they were filled.

Now they are, and now hes here.

Kruger, who general manager Stan Bowman wanted to join the Blackhawks after prospect camp, will make his NHL debut tonight when the Blackhawks host the Florida Panthers at the United Center. Kruger got to Chicago around noon on Tuesday; hell center a line with Bryan Bickell and Troy Brouwer tonight.

I got here (yesterday) and it feels great to finally be here and doing what I can to help the team, said Kruger, who considers himself a two-way player. I just play my game. I keep the puck and do what I can to help the team. Whatever the coaches want me to do Ill do 100 percent.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said he put the full-court press on Kruger to join the Blackhawks entering this season; he even recruited fellow Swede Niklas Hjalmarsson to try and change Krugers mind. But Kruger felt he needed another season in his home country, so he stayed.

In 52 games with Djurgarden, he had six goals and 29 assists.

I was committed to a contract back in Sweden, he said. Thats something I wanted to do and Ive done that. It was based on that.

Kruger fills a void left by Dave Bolland, whos still dealing with concussion issues. But Bowman said they planned to bring Kruger in sometime this season, regardless of injuries.

Hes a responsible center who can play both ways, Bowman said. Two years ago he was a rookie in the Swedish league and was one of the best. Thats very impressive for a player at that age to be that good over there.

He can do a little bit of everything offensively, defensively and kill penalties. Hes just a smart player with good instincts, anticipation. The question for him was handling the strength side of it. But just from last summer, seeing him today, it looks like hes gotten stronger and developed a bit.

Krugers biggest adjustment will be playing on the smaller North American rink, but his hockey smarts are considered a big asset for him. Coach Joel Quenneville told Kruger to use those tonight.

We kind of told him, Tonight, trust your instincts, play your game. Your strength is your anticipation and your mindset. Positionally he should be fine, Quenneville said. Theres some upside to his game. We watched him in prospect camp and he just looks like he wants the puck and it looks like hell be pretty handy with it as well.

Campbell in?

Brian Campbell (left foot) skated this morning and said he felt much better. He said there was a good chance he could play tonight against Florida.

I havent ruled on it 100 percent but I feel theres a good shot at it, he said. I felt good this morning and all day yesterday. Thats something that hasnt happened before so thats a good sign.

Quenneville said Campbell looked much better this morning.

He pushed himself more than he did yesterday, he said. He looks ready to go tonight and hopeful hes likely to play.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

33 Days to Kickoff: Westmont

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33 Days to Kickoff: Westmont

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Westmont

Head coach: Dan Woulfe

Assistant Coaches:  Dan McCulloch, Mitch Balek, Joe Helton, Scott Helton, Ryan Cahill

How they fared in 2016: 1-8 (0-5 Interstate 8 Small Conference), missed the 2016 IHSA state playoff field

2017 Regular Season Schedule:

August 25th @ Lake View

September 1st vs Chicago Tech Academy Charter

September 8th @ Wilmington

September 15th vs Seneca

September 22nd @ Reed-Custer

September 29th vs Peotone

October 6th @ Lisle

October 13th @ Streator

October 20th vs Plano

Biggest storyline: Can the Sentinels improve upon it's 1-8 season a year ago?

Names to watch this season:  Senior OL/DL Dustin Samoulis Senior QB Brenton Baldwin

Biggest holes to fill: The Sentinels will look to reload upfront on both the offensive and defensive lines this summer. 

EDGY's Early Take: Westmont first year head coach Dan Woulfe, who takes over for Hall of Fame head coach Otto Zeman this fall will look to get the Sentinels back on the winning track. Westmont welcomes back 9 starters (4 offense 5 defense) and the biggest key will be finding new linemen to step up this fall.

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Ryan Hartman likes how he feels approaching this season, his sophomore stint with the Blackhawks. Scoring 19 goals, earning the trust of the coaches and gaining a good deal of responsibility in your rookie season will do that for you.

“It’s feeling like I should be there,” he said on Friday. “Maybe sometimes when you first get called up, you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m here,’ and you’re still thinking about that. Now it’s just feeling like hockey for me and how it’s always supposed to be.”

More confidence is there for Hartman, as well as a few other young Blackhawks players who cut their teeth last year. That’s good, because those guys, having shown what they can do, will likely get more responsibility this season.

That includes Nick Schmaltz, who will either get first crack at the second-line left wing vacancy or help the Blackhawks at center, which he says is his preference “but I’m fine with wing, too.” Schmaltz struggled to start last season but following a few games in Rockford, he returned a more confident player. He played well with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik on the top line and filled in for Artem Anisimov later in the season.

“I was nervous coming in. I didn’t know if it was going to work and I gained confidence game by game and felt more comfortable,” he said. “I was making the plays I’m used to making.”

When Tanner Kero was recalled right before Christmas, it was because of Anisimov’s injury. But outside of a bye-week return to Rockford Kero turned that call-up into a full-time gig, giving the Blackhawks another bottom-six center option and earning himself a two-year contract. With Marcus Kruger and Dennis Rasmussen no longer here, Kero is expected to have that third- or fourth-line center role; thanks to experience gained last season, Kero’s more comfortable now.

“It was great,” he said. “Going in, you’re not sure. It’s day-to-day to start and you just want to prove yourself and get those opportunities, get trust and more ice time. As the season went on I got more confident, trusted my game more. Going into the season I’m going in with a lot more confidence.”

John Hayden felt fairly comfortable when he joined the Blackhawks last spring thanks to his senior season at Yale – “I needed that fourth year as a player and a person,” he said. Still, getting in some NHL games, getting a feel for the pro level and gaining familiarity with the Blackhawks will benefit him in September.

“It’s important considering it’s my first training camp and I’ll know a lot of the guys, which helps a ton. From an on-ice standpoint, I have that experience,” he said. “I’ve spent a ton of time addressing areas in need of improvement all in all I’m excited for training camp.”

But Hartman and others don’t see it as weight on their shoulders.

“I don’t think there’s pressure,” Hartman said. “When you look back you want to see improvements every year, you want to see yourself becoming a better hockey player. That’s something I want to do, I want to be able to look back and say I had a good career my first year but each year I got progressively better. That’s where my mindset is at.”

There’s more opportunity for the young players but Hayden says that’s true of everyone.

“I don’t really analyze opportunity. Regardless of the team, it’s going to be competitive,” he said. “Every summer you have to have a hard-working mindset and do what you can to show up in the fall in the best shape of your life.”

The Blackhawks’ young players have all set the bar at a certain level and will be expected to improve. It takes confidence to take that next step. Thanks to experience gained last season, they’re feeling good about taking it.