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Kruger with Blackhawks, prepared to catch up

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- It took longer than Marcus Kruger hoped, but the Chicago Blackhawks center officially arrived at training camp.

Before he could fly to Chicago, Kruger had to wait in Stockholm for his United States work visa to be approved, a process that's usually done during the summer. Kruger, who was a restricted free agent, didn't sign his one-year contract until Sept. 11.

"[It was] just getting my visa [that delayed things]," Kruger said Saturday at United Center prior to a preseason game against the St. Louis Blues. "That's always the deal. It takes a little bit. You can't get it before you sign a contract. That's just how it is. Unfortunately, I [missed] the first week here, but I'm here now and happy to be back."

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman tried to clear enough space under the $71.4 million NHL salary cap to negotiate a longer-term contract for Kruger but was unable to do it. Instead, the 25-year old Swede settled for the one-year extension hopeful that a long-term contract can be worked out.

"I've got a one-year deal and I'll try to do my best to maybe in the future get another deal," he said. "So, that's what I'm aiming for this year. Have a good year and I think everything else will sort out."

Kruger, who didn't play Saturday, worked out with his former Swedish junior team during his absence from training camp. He said he doesn't feel like he's behind physically and will get a chance to show his conditioning level during Chicago's final two preseason games (Thursday and next Saturday).

"I kind of knew [I'd be delayed]," Kruger said. "I wanted to be here, but the situation was what it was and I just tried to prepare myself at home instead, and take advantage to maybe work out a little bit extra and skate a little bit harder than maybe you usually do."

Kruger, Chicago's top penalty-killing forward, centered the Blackhawks' fourth line in their 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup championship seasons. He had seven goals and 10 assists in 81 games last season, and two goals and four points in the playoffs.

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