Hawks looks past Versteeg's ACL injury
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Kris Versteeg was a minus-9 in 18 games with Florida this season. Panthers GM Dale Tallon said Versteeg's play has been "inconsistent" but the Hawks looked past that when they traded for him Thursday.
Kris Versteeg's health is not an issue, insists Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman.
Versteeg suffered a torn ACL in his knee last March 12 and is close to 100 percent recovered.
"He's been playing this year and is ready to go," Bowman said.
"It's a tough injury to come back from," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "You can look at it and everybody has a timeline on it, how long is it going to take to where you're effective or even play. I think long term, you look at it and you give a guy a year to get back to that level to where you're at your peak.
"That's probably the right timeline in hockey. He's not there yet, but at the same time he's playing. He said he's starting to feel a lot better recently so that's where he's at."
Those who have watched Versteeg play in Florida say while making a comeback from major knee surgery in six months is admirable, he clearly doesn't have the same speed and elusiveness in his game. He has just 2 goals and 5 assists to go with being minus-9 in 18 games.
Versteeg was actually benched a few weeks ago against the Capitals by recently fired coach Kevin Dineen, which was the first healthy scratch of his career.
"His play was inconsistent," Panthers GM Dale Tallon told reporters on a conference call Friday morning. "He tried to do too much probably carrying the burden of a big contract and wasn't consistent enough. This is based on performance only.
"He had some flashes of brilliance, but we need to be excellent on every shift. He's going to a place he had success so it'll be a good fit for him. He's an asset, had value and we needed to make a change."
Versteeg is happy to be reunited with the eight players who were here in 2010 when the Hawks won their first Stanley Cup.
"To see the old guys is always great," Versteeg said. "Now to be on their team again, it's exciting. I have a lot of friends outside of hockey here, too. It really helps getting you comfortable and settled in when you can come to a situation where you know people already."
Versteeg admitted he was jealous watching the Hawks win the Stanley Cup again last season without him.
"It was tough," he said. "You're watching you're old team win the Stanley Cup. Obviously, I'd be lying to say I wasn't jealous."
Nikolai Khabibulin gets his first start since Oct. 29 on Saturday in Nashville.
That's a long time to go between starts, but Joel Quenneville is confident that Khabibulin is ready to bounce back after two shaky outings.
"Both games are equally tough as far as when you look at it," Quenneville said of his decision to start Khabibulin against Nashville and not on Sunday against San Jose at the United Center. "Getting him a start on the road and getting him back in the swing of things is what we're looking at.
"I think with goalies, every start is a big start. It's been a while since he played. Hopefully, he can get in there and do his thing and feel comfortable."
Versteeg and Shaw:
Playing with Andrew Shaw instead of against him will be a new thing for Kris Versteeg.
"He's a kid that you play against that, he's pesky and he knows how to get in there and mix stuff up," Versteeg said. "I look forward to playing with him and Bicksie (Bryan Bickell).
"Me and Bicks played together when we were 20 years old out in Norfolk with the team out there, and when we were both with the Blackhawks way, way back, so there's familiarity there with Bicksie."
After trading for Kris Versteeg on Thursday night, the Hawks had to make a few roster moves to get under the salary cap.
They first put center Michal Handzus (upper body) and defenseman Michael Kostka (right foot) on long-term injured reserve.
"I think we basically shut him down there," Joel Quenneville said of Handzus. "I just think when you're ready, you're ready. Whatever time is necessary and needed. He's showing progress there. It's not too far away, but that was kind of the thought process. It'll be weeks, but not too many weeks. Maybe a couple of weeks tops."
Jeremy Morin and Alex Broadhurst were sent to Rockford and Brad Mills was placed on waivers. Mills cleared on Friday and was sent to Rockford.
Kris Versteeg will wear No. 23 since Michal Rozsival owns his old number 32 now.
"I think he's a veteran who's proved he deserves it," Versteeg said.
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