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Marcus Kruger takes a ‘tough hit’

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) works front Chicago Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery first period an NHL hockey game against

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) works in front of Chicago Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Pittsburgh Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011. The Penguins won 3-2. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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The facts: 6:30, CSN, 720-AM.

Updated: January 22, 2012 8:20AM

PITTSBURGH — Rookie center Marcus Kruger was doing better than simply holding his own in the eyes of Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. There was no reason to remove him from the second-line center spot between stars Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.

“Sometimes a young player like [him] can get influenced or get intimidated playing with top guys, but I think he’s playing his game,” Quenneville said.

But a bad hit can change things fast. Kruger was hit by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland — who left his feet and made contact with Kruger’s head — in the first period Tuesday. Kruger took five more shifts after the hit and began the second period on the bench, but he never took the ice and later left.

Engelland wasn’t penalized, but he’s expected to hear from the NHL, which has taken a tough stance against such hits. Engelland was left with a bloody face after fighting Hawks enforcer John Scott, who received an instigator penalty. The Penguins scored on the ensuing power play.

Quenneville said Kruger was doing OK after the game and called it a “tough hit, a high hit in a tough area [where Kruger] was in a tough spot.” Kruger will be re-evaluated Wednesday.

Quenneville had said Kruger was steadily getting better.

“He’s a smart player who can improve,” Quenneville said. “I like his quickness, and he’s had more patience with the puck as we’ve gone along here. As he grows through the league, knowing the other teams or his own teammates, there’s room for growth in his game. We like the upside.”

Carcillo concerns

The Hawks are still tight-lipped about the status of Daniel Carcillo, who’s believed to have suffered a head injury against the Minnesota Wild last week. Carcillo didn’t travel to Pittsburgh, and he’s doubtful for Wednesday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.

“He’s getting better,” Quenneville said when asked if Carcillo needs to be cleared to return. “We’ve got four days off after [Wednesday’s] game. Hopefully, we’ll know more [Wednesday] when we get back and see him, but he’s coming along fine.”

Corey’s story

Quenneville said there’s a good chance that goalie Corey Crawford plays against the Canadiens. Ray Emery has started the last six games. Crawford last played Dec. 5 against the Phoenix Coyotes, getting chased after allowing three goals on 16 shots.

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