Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks And Marcus Kruger’s Return, An Alternative Look

By Gail Kauchak
Dec 1, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) celebrates with center Marcus Kruger (16) and left wing Tyler Motte (64) after scoring a goal against the New Jersey Devils during the second period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 1, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) celebrates with center Marcus Kruger (16) and left wing Tyler Motte (64) after scoring a goal against the New Jersey Devils during the second period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /
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Marcus Kruger is slated to return to the Chicago Blackhawks lineup later this week. When he does, how will the third and fourth lines look?

The Chicago Blackhawks get set to play the Vancouver Canucks tonight at the United Center, and Marcus Kruger was seen skating before practice.

This is exciting news for Hawks fans, as Kruger adds excellent defensive depth to the lineup.  He is also an integral part of the penalty kill.  But the question remains, where will he fit into the lineup upon his return?

My esteemed colleague, Colin Likas, gave his opinion on the matter in a previous post.  I’d also like to put in my two cents.  After all, no one really knows what the lines will look like until Coach Q sends them out onto the ice.  And even then, they could change the next shift.

Although we did receive a clue in from Coach Quenneville earlier today.

Coach Q is referring to Tanner Kero’s play in the last couple of games especially.  He’s been centering the third line, with Vinnie Hinostroza on his left wing, and Marian Hossa on his right wing.  The line has definitely made some noise.

Kero tallied an assist in the 1-0 win against Boston Friday night, and ran away with two goals and an assist in the previous 6-4 win over the Colorado Avalanche last Tuesday.

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The other youngster, Hinostroza, has put up two goals and an assist in the last two games.  Hossa has tallied a goal and three assists.  All in all, this line can be credited with four goals and five assists in said games.  I’d say that’s a pretty good argument to keep the hot hands together.

In the meantime, the fourth line has consisted of a combination of Dennis Rasmussen at center, and Nick Schmaltz, Andrew Desjardins, and Jordin Tootoo on his wings.  Desjardins had a standout game against the Avs, but he was scratched against the Bruins in order to give Tootoo playing time during the dad’s trip.

When Kruger comes back, I’d like to see him center the fourth line with Rasmussen and Schmaltz on his wings.  This could be a true shut-down line, that also has some offensive punch.

Rasmussen, like Kruger, has paved his way as a defense-first guy, and he’s been very effective on the penalty kill.  Schmaltz, who earned a goal and assist of his own against Colorado, could gain more playing time on this fourth line, and become more comfortable and confident.

Now, stick with me here.  As Richard Panik isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire on the first line, could Schmaltz eventually be weaned to make a move up next to Jonathan Toews?  His skill set is really more tailored for him to be a top six forward than a shut-down guy.  Just a thought.

These moves would leave Desjardins as the odd man out, but he could also rotate in if someone else falters.  And Tootoo could finally be filtered out altogether.

In summary, going forward, the third and fourth lines would look like this:

Hinostroza-Kero-Hossa

Rasmussen-Kruger-Schmaltz/Desjardins

Next: 3 Thoughts From Hawks Win Against Bruins

What do you think, Chicago Blackhawks fans?!  We’ve given you a few different options to think about.  What should the lines look like when Kruger returns?

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