Center Marcus Kruger summed up last season in one word: “difficult.”
In the matter of one year, Kruger, who spent his first seven NHL seasons with the Blackhawks, was traded to four teams, saw a demotion to the AHL and had surgery for sports hernia.
So difficult seems to be an appropriate way to describe a season that went in every direction but the one Kruger had intended.
What’s important now is that Kruger, who posted only six points in 48 games with the Hurricanes before being relegated to the AHL in February, is looking to move past the adversity he faced last season and return to his regular form.
“I gained a lot of experience from that,” Kruger said, “and I got stronger from that.”
The Hawks reacquired Kruger in a July trade that shipped center Vinnie Hinostroza and right wing Marian Hossa’s contract to the Coyotes.
Kruger said he couldn’t have been more excited to return to Chicago, a place where he has won two Stanley Cups.
“It feels good [to be back],” he said. “Being away for a year definitely makes you appreciate this a lot, and it feels great being back with all the guys and everyone around the team again.”
The Hawks appear to want Kruger to take on a similar role to the one he previously filled with the team. At training camp, Kruger has mainly been the center of the Hawks’ fourth line with forwards John Hayden and Andreas Martinsen.
Kruger, who only has one season left on his contract, feels like he’s not the only player who has something to prove this season. He said the entire Hawks’ roster came into camp energized and ready to redeem itself.
“I feel like everyone has something to prove here,” Kruger said, “and everyone feels ready and is really motivated to have a better season.”
Hawks drop preseason opener
The Hawks started goalie Cam Ward in the net for their preseason opener, a 4-1 loss to the host Blue Jackets.
In the first period, Ward (13 saves) allowed two goals, including a power-play goal by center Alexander Wennberg.
Midway through the second period, Collin Delia (14 saves) replaced Ward, who the Hawks signed to a one-year deal in July to back up Corey Crawford. Ward’s performance was promising because the Hawks still don’t have a timeline for Crawford, who is dealing with symptoms stemming from a concussion he suffered last year. Crawford hasn’t practiced with the team yet, but he did have his third consecutive on-ice session with goalie coach Jimmy Waite.
Alexandre Fortin scored the lone goal for the Hawks, who were 0-for-2 on the power play.