Chicago Blackhawks’ Marcus Kruger Promoted After Anisimov’s Injury

Artem Anisimov‘s injury will leave the Chicago Blackhawks more shorthanded for at least one game

When the Chicago Blackhawks host the Washington Capitals tonight, in a matchup of two teams that have gotten off to strong starts, the hosts will be without two key players.

Bottom-six winger Tyler Motte has been due to miss 2 to 3 weeks after suffering a lower-body injury in Sunday’s win against Dallas. Now, second-line center Artem Anisimov is slated to miss tonight’s game due to an upper-body injury.

The initial fear with an upper-body injury is that it’s a concussion, which makes a player’s absence from the ice completely unpredictable. However, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Wednesday’s win against St. Louis that Anisimov wasn’t pulled off the ice by a concussion spotter.

Even better news came today when Q said Anisimov would likely play Sunday against Montreal, the Blackhawks’ last game before they start the annual Circus Trip.

Of course, this leaves the Blackhawks’ lineup in flux for tonight’s game against a strong Capitals outfit.

Marcus Kruger gets chance to step up

Even if it’s just for one game, the Blackhawks will be asking Marcus Kruger to take on a bigger role for the Blackhawks.

Kruger is typically asked to center a defensive-minded third line while also playing a critical role on the penalty kill. Tonight, he’ll be asked to center the second-line duo of Artemi Panarin and Marian Hossa.

This is an interesting choice from Coach Q. Hossa is certainly an effective defensive forward, so he and Kruger can make up for Panarin’s shortcomings in that area. Meanwhile, Panarin is a skilled playmaker, while Hossa and Kruger are adept at setting up and finishing scoring chances.

That being said, it’s an interesting choice because it’ll be curious to see how Q deploys the line. Panarin and Hossa are used to starting their shifts in the offensive zone this season — to tunes of 84.3 and 64.2 of their starts occurring in the offensive zone.

Meanwhile, Kruger has started just 13.3 percent of his shifts this season in the offensive zone. So how will Q find a balance between allowing Kruger to do his defensive forward work and setting Panarin and Hossa up for offensive success?

Fourth line could be makeshift defensive line

Looking at the Blackhawks’ other lines for tonight, Nick Schmaltz will get another shot with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane up top. A weird grinder line of Ryan Hartman, Vincent Hinostroza and Jordin Tootoo will constitute the third group.

So that leaves the fourth line holding Andrew Desjardins, Dennis Rasmussen and Richard Panik. Honestly, this is probably the best option for a defensive forward line if Q would prefer to give the second line its usual offensive-zone starts.

Desjardins and Rasmussen are guys who play on the penalty kill, and Desjardins joined Kruger on the fourth line that stopped some of the Blackhawks’ better opponents in the 2015 postseason. Panik is a power forward who can certainly use his frame to play some defense, so this could work out for Chicago.

Regardless, things are a little up in the air tonight. It’s definitely good the Blackhawks have the last change, especially against a very well-rounded Capitals team. It’ll be interesting to see how Q deploys his guys.

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