Marcus Kruger made no secret that he’d love to play in a more offensive role, and to get a chance to play major minutes on a line with somebody like Patrick Kane.
But Kruger’s latest audition at second-line center lasted one game before he found himself back in his usual spot on the fourth line.
“It’s how it is,” Kruger shrugged Tuesday as the Blackhawks prepared to face the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center. “If they want me to play there, I’ll play there. If they want me to play on the other line, I’ll play there, as well. There’s not much you can do. You just try to work hard.”
With Michal Handzus’ struggles contributing to Kane’s brief slump, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville decided to give Kruger a shot on the second line. But by the end of Saturday night’s game in Montreal, Kane already was skating a couple of shifts with Andrew Shaw. And Sunday night against Edmonton, Kruger was back between Brandon Bollig and Ben Smith, while Shaw was on the second line, where he’ll be again tonight.
Quenneville said that Kruger has carved out a nice role for himself as a checking-line player and penalty killer, and that he’s comfortable with him there.
“He gets a nice quantity of ice time in the role that he does play for us, and we feel that he really solidifies that need for us,” Quennevlle said. “When he gets in that [second-line] role up there in that short-term audition, I think he gives us what we’re looking for. But we value what he brings on that [fourth] line, whether it’s a checking responsibility or the safety look that he gives us. That’s kind of the niche we have for him.”
Kruger understands the value in his role, and acknowledged that he, Bollig and Smith have developed a nice bit of chemistry as one of just two consistent lines on the team. And while, like any player, he’d love to play in a high-profile role and play 20 minutes a night, he knows only one thing matters: The Hawks lost on Saturday, and they won on Sunday.
“It’s all about winning, right?” he said. “That’s why I play, at least. I’ll just try to help the team as much as I can.”