Kruger's contributions go far beyond the box score
The Blackhawks don't expect Marcus Kruger to put up Jonathan Toews-like offensive numbers. But one thing they do expect -- and receive consistently from the 24-year-old third-line center -- is a Toews-like effort every game.
The Blackhawks have gotten that from Kruger even during his recent offensive struggles. Kruger broke a drought of 20 straight games without a point when he fired in the Blackhawks' first goal in their 4-2 win over St. Louis on Sunday. He had not scored a goal in 28 games.
Kruger's tally was his fifth of the season.
"One thing with him you know you're going to get is an honest effort every night," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's relentless in the puck areas, defensively he gets some big assignments, and he still does a nice job penalty-killing and on faceoffs. He gives us a lot of that predictable play, and I think that helps our team game."
Kruger entered Monday's game having won 55.36 percent of his faceoffs, second best on the team behind Toews (55.97).
The Blackhawks also got a goal from fellow third-liner Bryan Bickell against St. Louis. The goals by Kruger and Bickell were especially welcomed by a team that was shut out in back-to-back game against San Jose and Minnesota on their recent seven-game road trip.
"We really don't care who's scoring the goals, but it's always nice when any line scores," Quenneville said. "I think they get a little confidence and they get a little excitement in their game, as well."
Kris Versteeg missed his 16th game in row Monday with an upper-body injury. The winger is apparently ready to return to game action.
"We're thinking likely Wednesday (against Vancouver)," Joel Quenneville said.
Rookie defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk remains sidelined with a lower-body injury, and the Blackhawks are not counting on his return anytime soon. Van Riemsdyk hasn't played since Nov. 16.
"He's skating. Very light skating, though," Quenneville said. "He's a ways away."