Kruger skates, hopes to be cleared soon

Marcus Kruger isn’t ready to get into a game yet, but he’s feeling close to it.

Kruger skated for the third consecutive day on Sunday and is hoping to get cleared for contact soon. The Blackhawks center has not played since he took some big hits against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 26 but said he’s felt better with each passing day.

“Of course you don’t want to miss this many games but I’ve tried to be patient,” Kruger said. “I know it’s going to get better and better and I hope to be back and playing soon.”

Kruger said he took “two big hits” against Columbus, five days after he suffered a concussion when Pittsburgh defenseman Deryk Engelland hit him high. Kruger also suffered a setback last week when he was doing off-ice workouts.

“I tried to do some off-ice stuff and I didn’t feel as good as I wanted,” Kruger said. “It was frustrating but the medical team helped me a lot and I’ve done everything I can to be back as soon as possible. Today was great.”

The Blackhawks have used Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw at second-line center in Kruger’s absence. There’s no doubt the Swede provided stability there; linemates Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa had lengthy point streaks in December, and a good chunk of that came with Kruger centering them.

“We appreciate the consistency in his game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s useful in a lot of ways. His production may not be high end but his effectiveness is what you. He can make and see plays as well.”