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Marian Hossa out for Winter Classic; Marcus Kruger out 3 weeks

Quenneville wasted no time reaching out to his successor. (Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS — The good news is that Marian Hossa skated on Sunday. The bad news is, it was in Chicago, not St. Louis.

Hossa, tied with Artem Anisimov for the team lead in goals with 16, will not play in Monday’s Winter Classic against the St. Louis Blues at Busch Stadium because of an upper-body injury had already cost him four games. But the fact that he finally skated on Sunday is encouraging, and means he could return as soon as Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres.

It will be a lot longer before Marcus Kruger returns, however. Kruger ran off the ice during the second period Friday night in Carolina and didn’t return. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday that Kruger will be out “around three weeks” with an upper-body injury.

“That’s a big loss for us,” Quenneville said.

Kruger had been centering the Hawks’ third line with Dennis Rasmussen and Richard Panik, and it had become the one constant in an ever-changing lineup. Kruger is arguably the Hawks’ most important defensive forward, and he was on pace for his best offensive season in a couple of years with two goals and eight assists through 39 games.

“He always does the right things, and he’s always responsible playing the right side of the puck,” Rasmussen said. “Sometimes you don’t even have to look where he is, you can just pass it because you know he’s going to be in that area where he’s supposed to be, and that makes it really easy to play with him. And he always works hard, 100 percent.”

in his absence, Tanner Kero moved up to the third line, and Andrew Desjardins moved over from wing to center on the fourth line. Quenneville said he’s comfortable with the options he has for bottom-six centers in Kruger’s absence.

“We still have [Rasmussen] and [Vinnie Hinostroza] as options,” he said. “Kero, in the short amount to time he’s been here, has done a nice job for us and gives us responsibility defensively. [Desjardins] hasn’t played a ton at center, but has the ability o play there. We have a lot of guys who can be moved.”

Said Desjardins: “I’ve been back and forth, so I feel pretty comfortable there. You’re engaged, you’re in the battles, a little bit more defensive-zone stuff. You’ve got to prepare a little differently. but I’m comfortable there and I enjoy it. I’m ready for whatever I have to do.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus