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Blackhawks excited to have Kruger back

Forward missed 41 games with injury, will return against Flames

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

BLACKHAWKS (42-25-7) at FLAMES (31-37-6)

TV: 10 p.m. ET; SN, WGN, NHL.TV

CALGARY -- The Chicago Blackhawks will get a boost in the return of forward Marcus Kruger when they play the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday.

Kruger missed 41 games because of a left wrist injury. He's been out since Dec. 18.

"It's been a long stretch for him," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He hasn't missed much over the course of his career. It's been a long absence. We have an appreciation for what he brings for our team game. It's been a lot of frustrating skates here recently, but it's nice to see him back."

Kruger, who has one assist in 33 games this season, will join Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins to form Chicago's fourth line.

"He brings everything," Shaw said. "He's going to work hard, he's going to compete, and he's going to win those one-on-one battles. He's great on the PK and he's going to make plays offensively as well. I know if I was in that situation, I'd go stir crazy. He made sure he's ready. He did all the little things right. He made sure he got better as fast as he could, and we're excited to have him back."

Kruger's return comes at an important time for the Blackhawks.

Chicago has lost six of its past seven games (1-4-2) and is two points ahead of the Nashville Predators for third place in the Central Division.

"I think we've had some bad starts recently," Quenneville said. "We've had some games where we've had some lopsided losses that we can't be happy about. We've lost a lot of ground in the standings. Starts are probably the most important thing … playing the right way. We need a better four-line rotation than we've seen for a big stretch here. Let's recapture the puck and let's have some confidence with it as well."

Chicago hasn't played since a 6-2 loss against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.

"We had some rest over the little break we had," Shaw said. "We're filled with energy and we're excited for tonight's game. We know we've got to step it up. The playoffs are just around the corner. The division's tight. We've got to start playing better hockey."

Flames defenseman Deryk Engelland will return to the lineup after missing three games following the birth of his second child, and Calgary will debut a new top line of Freddie Hamilton with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan against the Blackhawks.

Hamilton was recalled from Stockton of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis for the second time this month on March 22. He has one goal in three games this season.

"We have many guys that we're looking at, we're evaluating them," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "We're evaluating them at different positions and different roles also. It's just a matter to see how they respond to it. I feel that it's very important to put them in all those situations and then it's up to them to showcase their abilities and show us what they've got."

Here are the projected lineups:


Andrew Ladd - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane

Tomas Fleischmann - Teuvo Teravainen - Richard Panik

Andrew Desjardins - Marcus Kruger - Andrew Shaw

Duncan Keith - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Viktor Svedberg - Brent Seabrook

Trevor van Riemsdyk - Michal Rozsival

Scott Darling

Michael Leighton

Injured: Corey Crawford (upper body)

Scratched: Dale Weise, Dennis Rasmussen, Brandon Mashinter, Christian Ehrhoff, Erik Gustafsson


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Freddie Hamilton

Lance Bouma - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik

Joe Colborne - Sam Bennett - Garnet Hathaway

Brandon Bollig - Matt Stajan - Micheal Ferland

Mark Giordano - Deryk Engelland

TJ Brodie - Dougie Hamilton

Jyrki Jokipakka - Jakub Nakladal

Joni Ortio

Jonas Hiller

Injured: Karri Ramo (torn ACL), Ladislav Smid (upper body), Dennis Wideman (triceps), Josh Jooris (lower body)

Scratched: Niklas Backstrom

Status update: Crawford remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Kane did not practice Friday but will play against the Flames. … Calgary assigned defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon to Stockton earlier Saturday.

Who's hot: Shaw and Panik have goals, and Desjardins and Panarin have assists in back-to-back games. … Giordano has two goals and three assists in the past five games. Stajan has two goals and one assist in his past four games.

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