CALGARY, AB -- It has been a long three months for Chicago Blackhawks forward Marcus Kruger but the 25-year-old has finally been cleared to play.
Out since Dec. 17 with a wrist injury, the Blackhawks activated Kruger from the Injured Reserve on Friday and have announced he will be in the lineup against the Calgary Flames.
He practiced on a line with Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins on Friday and will play alongside those two this evening, as per Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville.
Kruger is one of Chicago's top penalty killers, an area they have struggled in recently. The Blackhawks penalty kill ranks 24th in the NHL with a 77.8 efficiency rate. On the road, their penalty killing is ranked 26th in the league at 76.5 percent.
Getting him back in the penalty killing rotation will be a boon for Quenneville and the coaching staff. Among forwards, Kruger is 20th in the NHL in average short-handed ice time per game (2:22) and has put in 78:35 of work while the Blackhawks have been down a man this year.
While Chicago will have Kruger back, they will be without starting goaltender Corey Crawford. He is day-to-day with an upper body injury so expect to see Scott Darling get the nod in net tonight.
Darling is 7-7-3 this year with a 2.59 GAA and a .913 save percentage. He has faced the Flames twice this season, backstopping his team to a 4-1 win on Nov. 15 and making 35 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss to Calgary on Nov. 20.
Michael Leighton, recalled earlier this month, is expected to back him up.
Tonight's tilt is the first stop on a crucial four-game road trip for the Blackhawks. While they remain third in the Central Division, they have had consistency issues in recent weeks. They are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games and have dropped six of their last seven contests.
If they want to make up some ground on Dallas and St. Louis, who both have 97 points on the year, this road swing is monumental.
BREAKING DOWN THE BLACKHAWKS
Power Play: 22 percent overall (50 goals scored in 227 chances with the man advantage), 23.6 percent on the road (26 goals scored in 110 chances with the man advantage)
Penalty Kill: 77.8 percent overall (45 goals allowed in 212 times being short-handed), 76.5 percent on the road (28 goals allowed in 119 times being short-handed)
2015-16 Record vs. the Flames: 1-0-1
2014-15 Record vs. the Flames: 2-0-1
Notable Injuries: Corey Crawford (upper body)
Who's HOT: Patrick Kane
Held off the scoresheet in his last two appearances, Kane still has three points in his last four skates. He has seven points in March and has put 30 shots on net in 10 games this month.
Kane leads the NHL with 92 points this year and is second only to Alex Ovechkin in goals scored with 39 through his 74 games played.
Honourable Mention: Andrew Shaw
Shaw heads into tonight's game with goals in back-to-back games and threw out a season-high eight hits in the Blackhawks loss to the Dallas Stars on Mar. 22.
The 24-year-old is six points shy of matching his career-high 39 he hit in the 2013-14 season. In 74 games this year, he has 13 goals and 33 points.
Who's NOT: Brent Seabrook
The defenceman sits fifth in team scoring with 13 goals and 42 points in 74 games this year but hasn't been hot offensively as of late.
Seabrook's last point came on Mar. 6, an assist, and during his seven-game point drought, he is a minus-two.