Versteeg excited to face former Florida mates
- Photos (1)
Blackhawks left wing Jeremy Morin, left, and right wing Kris Versteeg celebrate Versteeg's goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Anaheim Ducks, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, in Chicago.
There are no hard feelings between Kris Versteeg and the Florida Panthers.
In fact, if anything Panthers general manager Dale Tallon did Versteeg a favor when he traded the veteran forward back to the Blackhawks on Nov. 14 in exchange for winger Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Dylan Olsen.
Blackhawks game day
Blackhawks vs. Florida Panthers at the United Center, 6 p.m. Sunday
TV: Channel 9
Radio: WGN-AM 720
The skinny: The Panthers are well out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They played in Detroit on Saturday night. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski remains out following hip surgery. Corey Crawford starts in goal for the Hawks, who are trying to end a season-high, three-game losing streak.
Next: Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
— Tim Sassone
"You've got to look at it that way," said Versteeg, who faces his former team Sunday at the United Center for the first time since the trade. "Me and Dale had a great relationship and to send me back to Chicago, a place I never thought I'd come back to, if I did it would be later in my career, I definitely think he did me a favor."
Versteeg understands the NHL is a business and the deal, where the Panthers are picking up half of Versteeg's $4.4 million cap hit for the remainder of his contract, was too good for Hawks GM Stan Bowman to pass up.
Versteeg was sent to Florida and expected to help the Panthers reach the postseason, a job he feels he definitely accomplished.
"There's no animosity there," Versteeg said. "I believe when I was brought in, I helped bring a team back to the playoffs that hadn't been there in 11 years. I did what I could when I was there.
"Obviously, I had injury problems when I was there the last year and a half and I can't really control that. But I think for the most part when I played there, I had a really good time and got along with everyone."
Versteeg is looking forward to seeing those teammates he didn't get a chance to say goodbye to after he was traded.
"I don't really believe I have something to prove against them," he said. "I think it's more I just look forward to playing against old teams. Even when I was playing against the Blackhawks it was always a game I liked."
The transition back to the Hawks has gone smoothly for Versteeg, who has 2 goals in 12 games, his second coming in Friday's 3-2 shootout loss to Anaheim.
The versatile Versteeg has proved to be just that, getting a taste of life on all four lines since he joined the Hawks.
Versteeg has played some center in the last few weeks thanks to injuries to Michal Handzus and Andrew Shaw. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville is looking forward to finding a set role for Versteeg, likely on the third line with Shaw and Bryan Bickell.
"The thing you appreciate with him is that versatility," Quenneville said. "We might continue to move him around, but I think getting set with linemates and getting that one spot would probably be healthy for everybody."
Versteeg has fit right back in on the ice and in the dressing room.
"All in all it's been a very easy transition compared to when I had to go to other teams," Versteeg said.
But there is one thing he has noticed about the Hawks.
"Everyone is just more mature," Versteeg said. "When we started out we were all a bunch of kids just starting all of our careers together. Everyone has lives now or kids, wives, everything, so times have changed over the last three and a half years, but it's made for a better hockey team, I think."
It's led to what Versteeg sees as a quiet confidence in games.
"I think once you win a few times you start to get that taste of winning," Versteeg said. "The confidence is there year after year to know you can do it. I came right into this locker room and you can tell right away that they're winning team and how confident they are.
"I've kind of seen it all over the last three years and you can tell in the games that guys never get down and you always believe you're in the game and have a chance to win."
•Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.
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