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Daniel Carcillo’s suspension, Marcus Kruger’s slow return are causes for concern

EdmontOilers v Chicago Blackhawks

Edmonton Oilers v Chicago Blackhawks

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Updated: February 5, 2012 8:18AM

What do the Blackhawks do now? In a matter of hours, the Hawks’ once-deep lineup is in flux.

Daniel Carcillo is gone, suspended indefinitely Tuesday by the NHL pending a disciplinary hearing for his illegal check on Edmonton Oilers’ defenseman Tom Gilbert that left both injured Monday.

To make matters worse, promising rookie center Marcus Kruger apparently suffered a setback Tuesday as he recovers from his concussion.

“We’ll know shortly what’s going on,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the Hawks’ plans.

The Hawks are expected to recall a player from Rockford by Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. But if Carcillo’s and Kruger’s injuries are long-term, the onus is on general manager Stan Bowman to get busy.

The good news is that Carcillo and Kruger are complementary players. The bad news is that they complemented the Hawks’ top two lines and served valuable roles.

Carcillo had just returned after missing six games with a concussion. He has a history of suspensions, including a two-game ban for a hit from behind on defenseman Joni Pitkanen earlier this season. It’s also clear the NHL didn’t like his hit on Gilbert.

“He has a track record that doesn’t help,” Quenneville said. “His leash is definitely a lot shorter than most or every player in the league. It’s tough finding that right balance. From our perspective, he’s doing everything we want.”

On top of the suspension, Carcillo injured his left knee on his hit. The Hawks were still awaiting test results, including an MRI, when Quenneville met the media Tuesday. But it’s feared Carcillo might have sustained considerable damage.

Quenneville frequently used Carcillo to provide space for the Hawks’ stars on the top two lines. Jonathan Toews even called him one of the “key guys.”

“We just got him back in and [Carcillo] was playing really well with [Marian] Hossa and I,” Toews said. “He was bringing that physical presence. We want to keep a guy like that in the lineup, and it’s tough to lose him so quickly. He’s an effective player for us. We always say that when we lose one of our key guys, we find a way to play without him. But it’s no fun when that happens.”

The Hawks have been without Kruger for three straight games and the news that he was feeling worse Tuesday — or in Quenneville’s words “not so good” — is discouraging. Kruger is coveted by the Hawks and had grown into a second-line role. The Hawks definitely have to err on the side of caution now.

“He was progressing there pretty good, but [Tuesday] was kind of a tough day,” Quenneville said.

Bowman and his staff were drawing up ways to make the Hawks better when Carcillo and Kruger were in the lineup. But with Kruger being the only call-
up from Rockford that’s shown enough consistency to stick with the Hawks, Bowman might have to compensate for his and Carcillo’s absences, in addition to adding the pieces he wanted when both were healthy.

“I don’t think you have to worry about injuries,” Bowman told the Sun-Times. “You have to be more worried about looking at guys who can improve your team. We can suffer no injuries the rest of the year, we can suffer some injuries or a lot of injuries. It’s not like you can plan for each of those circumstances and just stockpile players to be waiting in the wings for when injuries happen.”

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