Marcus Kruger’s stall is next to Jonathan Toews’ in the Blackhawks’ dressing room — and before every game the captain will lean over and give the kid some advice.
“I sit next to Krugs in the locker room and every game I kind of get in his ear and just tell him shoot the puck or just go to the net and he’s going to get an ugly one,” Toews said.
Kruger scored a goal in the Hawks’ 4-1 win against Detroit in Game 1, his second of the playoffs, putting him 2 up on the scoreless Toews.
“Yesterday I told him the same thing: go to the net and get a dirty one,” Kruger said jokingly.
It’s Kruger and Michael Frolik helping make the penalty kill a perfect 20-for-20 in the playoffs.
“It’s good to see those guys get that confidence,” Toews said. “It’s not an easy thing to do, to go all out for a shift for 45 seconds then have to sit there for five-six minutes not knowing the next time you might go on the ice. That’s how we need those guys to be and they’re showing up every night.”
Kruger and Frolik are the forwards coach Joel Quenneville calls on first whenever the Hawks are short-handed.
“They’ve been real solid all year,” Quenneville said. “When they started together at the beginning of the year it was kind of a work in progress, but they’ve progressed in a real nice way. They start first and third on each kill and block shots, get in lanes and do all the right things. It’s been a real nice fit for us.”
The modest Kruger has embraced his role as a penalty killer.
“It’s a good chance for us to get out there and do something for the team,” Kruger said. “After you kill off the penalty it feels good.”
Kruger scored a big goal in the Game 1 win over Detroit. It came in the third period to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead.
Kruger played eight minutes in the victory but averaged 14 during the regular season.
“Every opportunity you get you have to take advantage of,” said Kruger, who has modeled his penalty-killing game after ex-Hawk John Madden.
“There’s been a lot of good players, but if you’re looking at just penalty killing, a guy like John Madden,” said Kruger. “He was always great with the Devils doing that job. He was an awesome penalty killer.”
Joel Quenneville had this to say about reports that Viktor Stalberg was benched for Game 1 against Detroit because of a run-in with the coaching staff on the bench in Game 5 of the Minnesota series over his lack of power-play time.
“First of all, that story is 100 percent inaccurate,” Quenneville said Thursday.
“Viktor didn’t play and he knows the reasons why. It has nothing to do with anything about our conversation — nothing to do with that, at all. That situation wasn’t even addressed.
“With (Dave) Bolland coming back, somebody had to come out. You look at every situation and you’ve got a good argument for a number of guys. I don’t want to get in any arguments, but there were some strong considerations.”
Does Quenneville expect Stalberg to sit out Game 2 on Saturday?
“We’ll see,” the coach said.
Dave Bolland returned to the lineup in Game 1 after missing several weeks with a groin injury and was a factor in the 11:36 he played.
Bolland had 4 shots, 3 hits and was plus-1. He also drew a double-minor penalty for mixing it up with Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader in the second period.
“That’s what we expect from him in the playoffs, he’s going to stir things up,” Jonathan Toews said.
“I thought he played really good,” Patrick Kane said. “I thought he was big for us, worked really hard, finished his hits. You’ve seen him do it before in playoffs, where he kind of gets in the mix of things. That’s what we’re looking for from him. He’s definitely a key guy to have back.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.