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For Marcus Kruger, it's better late than never

Marcus Kruger (left) has missed just one game in each of the last three seasons. (AP Photo)

Marcus Kruger spent all summer waiting for the Blackhawks to make room for him. So it wasn’t asking a whole lot for him to be patient for one more week.

“Yeah, I think I already got some practice there,” he joked on Saturday. “So it was OK to wait that extra week. Now I’m here and I’m happy to be back.”

Kruger didn’t arrive in Chicago until Wednesday. Because he signed his one-year contract so late — Sept. 11 — his visa wasn’t ready in time to make training camp at Notre Dame. And he won’t make his preseason debut until Thursday at St. Louis. Kruger bided his time, practicing with his old junior team in Sweden during the delay.

Besides, Kruger is the last guy Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was worried about.

“Not him,” Quenneville said. “He’s a hard-working type of guy. He was skating in Sweden before he got back, waiting to get over here. He looked real good. He was really excited about being back on the ice [Friday], with his teammates. I’m sure he’ll be excited about playing these last two games.”

Kruger never doubted he’d be back in Chicago, but was holding out hope the Hawks could sign him to a long-term deal this summer. However, the team’s precarious salary-cap situation didn’t allow for it. So he’ll be in the same situation again next summer as a restricted free agent, unless he signs an extension during the season.

“I’ve got a one-year deal and I’ll try to do my best to maybe in the future get another deal,” Kruger said. “Have a good year and I think everything else will sort out.”

Cutdown day

The Hawks sent defenseman Ville Pokka and forwards Jerey Morin, Corey Tropp, Ryan Haggerty, Mark McNeill and Tanner Kero to Rockford. They also cut forwards Chris DeSousa and Pierre-Cedric Labrie, defenseman Kirill Gotovets and goalies Mac Carruth and Mark Visentin from camp. After the game, they cut veteran Jan Hejda, who was on a tryout.

With Pokka being sent down, and Michal Rozsival “questionable to doubtful” to be ready by the start of the season following his ankle injury, according to Quenneville, that could leave open the door for Lubomir Visnovsky — who is on a tryout contract — to make the team.

Panarin update

Russian phenom Artemi Panarin is expected back on the ice Monday, and should make his preseason debut on Thursday in St. Louis.

Twitter: @marklazerus

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com