Blackhawks

Versteeg's return to Chicago hits home

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Versteeg's return to Chicago hits home

Kris Versteeg is hearing it from his ex-Blackhawks teammates. Theyre giving the Florida Panthers forward flack on everything from his rap skills or lack thereof, according to Patrick Kane to his long hair, which Jonathan Toews tried to coax him into cutting.

Yeah, its always been a thing of Toewsers, trying to get into your head, said Versteeg, who returns to the United Center for the first time since Game 5 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. Last night he let me know about it, but its not going to go anywhere anytime soon. Hell have to cut it off in my sleep.

All kidding aside, today is an emotional day for Versteeg, who took a minute to look at that Cup banner hanging in the United Center rafters before the Panthers morning skate. He helped put it there, and it was special to finally see it.

It was really weird, said Versteeg, who leads the Panthers in goals (17) and points (39) this season. I didnt get to see the banner raised, so (today is) the first time I got to see that. It was a pretty neat experience what you got to accomplish with the team. But Im excited about (tonights) game, excited to get this thing going.

Its the first return for several Panthersformer Blackhawks today, including Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and Jack Skille. But the longest absence has been for Versteeg, who played with Toronto and later Philadelphia last season, but after the Flyers visited here in January of 2011.

Everything the Blackhawks accomplished that Cup year came back to Versteeg.

Its obviously very emotional. It hits home, Versteeg said. You spend so much time and effort as an individual to get to the NHL and then win the cup. Its emotional looking at that, in more ways than one, but it was pretty special to finally see it.

As for his rap career, Versteeg said hes working on a few things. Kane will probably have some fun with that.

You call those (rap) skills? That was pretty embarrassing, Kane said. Hopefully we dont have to see any of that for a while.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: