Not everything at the United Center is great these days.
Other than their lackluster performance to begin the new calendar year on Monday night, the injury bug appears to have found the fringes of the Hawks roster.
Coach Joel Quenneville revealed after practice on Tuesday that rookie center Marcus Kruger is still experiencing issues from his latest concussion, and his recovery took a step back recently. Also, Daniel Carcillo is rumored to have suffered a potentially season-ending leg injury against Edmonton.
So what do the Hawks do now?
Rookie Jimmy Hayes has jumped into the mix in the last two games and has impressed. He has used his size effectively and scored his first NHL goal to pull the Hawks back to within one on Monday night. With Carcillo looking at a lengthy suspension as the best-case scenario for the remainder of his season, Hayes might have the inside track on staying in the rotation moving forward.
But when looking to replace Kruger, the Hawks have a few options to consider.
The most likely candidate to replace Kruger would be Brandon Pirri. Also a center, Pirri was effective in his limited action with the Blackhawks earlier this year. The coaching staff put enough faith in the youngster to give him time on both special teams while he was in the NHL.
Kruger was winning roughly 46 percent of his faceoffs with Chicago, which is right where Pirri was in his four games with the Hawks. Kruger had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 34 games, while Pirri had two assists in his four games in Chicago. And, based on his production at Rockford, Pirri would appear to have more offensive upside than Kruger (at least on paper).
Of course Pirri isn’t the only player that will get consideration. Jeremy Morin has shown the ability to score and play a physical game in his time in Chicago over the last two seasons, and has been productive in Rockford since returning from his own concussion problems. Ben Smith was solid with the Hawks last year and is another player that will certainly be on Stan Bowman’s short list of recall candidates.