Being a healthy scratch is never an easy pill to swallow for an NHL player, and it's especially tough when you're a healthy scratch for a playoff game.
Just ask veteran Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg, who was scratched for what turned out to be a series-clinching Game 6 against St. Louis on Sunday after playing in the first five games of the series.
"Yeah, that's obviously tough," Versteeg admitted after practice Wednesday at Johnny's IceHouse. "I'd be lying to you if you say that you don't want to be out there helping the team.
"It's something that you don't want to be, but if it is, it is, and you understand why the coaches do it. You just have to have gut-check time and find a way to help the team."
Versteeg, who had 2 assists but only 6 shots on goal in five games against St. Louis and also saw his ice time dip as the series went on, was asked if he was given a reason why he was scratched Sunday.
"I understand why, but that's just between us," he said. "Just keep playing hard and hopefully find a way to get a couple of pucks in the net."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was a little more open about what he's hoping to see from his 27-year-old winger as the playoffs progress.
"We're looking for more speed, more directness in attack, more straight ahead -- kind of complementary to how our team plays," Quenneville said. "I think he was coming on at the end of the year and we're going to need him as we go along here."
The good news for Versteeg, who was replaced in the lineup in Game 6 by Joakim Nordstrom, was that he was back out on a regular line at practice Wednesday, skating alongside Michal Handzus and Brandon Bollig.
"Well, I know I can still play," said Versteeg who had 10 goals and 19 assists in 63 games with the Hawks during the regular season. "When I'm playing good I can be a help to the team.
"Right now it's just about getting back to that, finding your way, reaching deep down -- gut check time, you know? Hopefully when you get your chance you come through for the guys."
When he does get back in the lineup against either Minnesota or Colorado, Versteeg said he'll have to fight the urge to do too much too soon.
"I think you have to watch how fired up you get because you don't want to go out there and do anything stupid," he said. "But you hopefully it helps me in a positive way and I just keep building from there.
"Just keep trying to play. You have to play simple. I think it's about being reliable."
After playing only 10 games with Florida before undergoing season-ending knee surgery, Versteeg understands how precious each and every game is -- particularly in the playoffs.
"I know every time you get the chance to pull on an NHL jersey, it's something special," he said. "It's something you always want to do."