Updated: January 3, 2012 10:40AM
Praise for rookie Marcus Kruger was already pouring in before coach Joel Quenneville moved him to second-line center between stars Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.
“He’s a very smart hockey player,” veteran forward Andrew Brunette said. “He’s gotten better as we’ve gone along. He’s an easy guy to play with.”
Quenneville is hoping Sharp and Hossa feel the same way Friday against the New York Islanders at the United Center.
“Of course, I know the guys are good with the puck, but I still need to hold on to it and try to make plays for myself as well,” said Kruger, who has two goals and seven points in 24 games.
Kruger said his confidence has grown, and there’s also a sense of satisfaction after being cut in training camp. He was recently moved to wing on Dave Bolland’s line after spending most of the season on the fourth line.
“You want to get as many responsibilities as you can out there,” said Kruger, a key part of the second power-play unit. “I’m just trying to get more and more ice time.”
Quenneville said Kruger is deceptively strong with the puck.
“He controls and influences a lot of pucks,” he said. “He comes up with a lot of pucks in tight areas. . . . [But] the thing that got our attention is his patience and play recognition on the offensive side of things.”
Jonathan Toews was named the NHL’s second star of November for tallying nine goals and nine assists. He had five multiple-point games and three game-winning goals.
◆ Brent Seabrook, Dave Bolland and Steve Montador sat out practice Thursday but are expected to play Friday. Corey Crawford will start in goal.