Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Kris Versteeg, Joakim Nordstrom return to Chicago

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Blackhawks: Kris Versteeg, Joakim Nordstrom return to Chicago

Kris Versteeg walked through the United Center once again as a visiting player on Sunday.

It’s another reunion game of sorts as the Blackhawks face Versteeg, Joakim Nordstrom and the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday night. The trade, which came in mid-September, has meant more opportunity for both players – Versteeg has been playing on Carolina’s top line and Nordstrom is part of the second line. Both have settled into their new surroundings nicely and both enjoyed coming back to Chicago, especially Versteeg.

“Chicago has always been a second home to me. I have a lot of great friends here even away from the game, a lot of great people I’ve met, so I know they’re excited to be here tonight to watch as well,” he said. “It’s always a very special feeling for me to come back. I’m excited about everything I’ve been a part of in my past and excited to be here today.”

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your copy of the One Goal III book]

Versteeg has gone through trades several times now, so he wasn’t stunned when it happened again this offseason. Unlike in 2010, when he was traded soon after the Blackhawks won that Cup, this time Versteeg said he “was enjoying the whole process of winning, realizing how special it was and letting the business take care of itself and not worry about it so much.”

For Nordstrom, who had signed his one-year deal the week before he and Versteeg were traded to Carolina, it was more unexpected.

“I think the negotiations with my contract took some time over the summer, then obviously your head starts spinning a little bit. When it happened, of course I was surprised,” he said. “But I’m happy it happened, because I really like my opportunity in Carolina.”

Nordstrom has been playing steadier minutes lately, around 15-16 minutes per game. He recorded a goal and an assist, the first multi-point game of his career, in a 3-1 victory over New Jersey on Saturday night.

“I spent five years here with this organization,” Nordstrom said of the Blackhawks. “It’s always tough getting traded the first time but I saw a good opportunity in it and welcomed it.”

[MORE: Blackhawks return from holiday break with another busy stretch ahead]

Versteeg and Nordstrom’s time with the Blackhawks ended on a winning note. They then contributed a few notes of their own with their Stanley Cupparade rap at Soldier Field. Trades happen, and the one involving them led to bigger opportunities for both. But Chicago will still hold a special place.

“I’ve always tried to not think too much about the past and what could have been; I had a great time here,” Versteeg said. “I still have a lot of really good friends on that team and friends around the league I played in Chicago with, so I’m just extremely fortunate to even have been given the opportunity.”

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

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AP

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident:

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

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USA TODAY

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

Win one game.

That was Joel Quenneville’s message during the Blackhawks’ eight-game losing streak, which finally came to an end on Saturday night.

How about a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on home ice for a streak-breaker? Now that’s more like it.

Prior to Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn’t recorded a win in February — or a win at the United Center since Jan. 12. 

Though the Blackhawks will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were rookies, a blowout win over the leaders of the Metropolitan Division Capitals had to have felt great.

"It’s a nice way to get over the hump," Toews said. "Sometimes you might just win a 2-1 game or just kind of grind it out, but it was nice for us to fill the net the way we did tonight."

Added Joel Quenneville, "Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain how we had a lead and were unable to sustain it. The complete 60 minutes, three periods the right way, more consistency in our game, way more pace than we’ve seen recently, composure with the puck, shooting around the net. It was fun but that’s one. Let’s see how we respond to this because there’s a lot of hockey left."

The Blackhawks are 25-26-8 with 58 points, and are 11 points out the final wild card spot, currently held by the Minnesota Wild.

Among the highlights:

— Seven different Blackhawks scored: Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman

— The Blackhawks are 74-6-4 in the regular season in which Kane and Toews both record a goal — and 41-0-0 in their last 41 games, according to NBC Sports Chicago stats guru Chris Kamka.

— Kane registered career assist No. 500, becoming the sixth Blackhawk with 500 or more. Kane is also the seventh U.S.-born player with 300-plus goals and 500-plus assists, joining Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Pat LaFontaine, Joe Mullen and Phil Housley, according to Kamka.

"You think about the amount of great Americans that have played the game, how many players actually play hockey in the United States... Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey," Kane said. "That means a lot, especially when you talk about American-born players."

— DeBrincat's 22nd goal of the season has him tied for the rookie-lead with Tampa Bay Lightning's Yanni Gourde. DeBrincat and Kane also lead the Blackhawks with 22 goals.