Blackhawks: Kris Versteeg, Joakim Nordstrom return to Chicago


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.”

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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.”

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

The Blackhawks recalled No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach from his AHL conditioning stint on Friday night after he appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs. He missed the first week of training camp with a concussion and the organization wanted him to get a taste of the pro action and back up to speed after not playing in any preseason games, either.

"I enjoyed the experience there," Dach said. "I had a lot of fun. Got to see a couple buddies. It was good for me to get down there and get some pro games under my belt and just feel what the pace is going to be like. It'll be another step up here, but I feel good and I feel like I'm ready to go."

Whether Dach makes his NHL debut on Sunday against the Washington Capitals won't be revealed by head coach Jeremy Colliton until after morning skate on Sunday. But where does he fit into the lineup going forward?

The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 in their past three games and aren't necessarily looking to shake up their rotation, even though they're still searching for consistency on all four lines.

The easy answer is for Dach to slide into a third-line center role behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome, but the trio of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad has undoubtedly been the most consistent for the Blackhawks this season. And we saw in the home opener what happened when they were separated. 

The Blackhawks held an optional practice on Saturday morning and didn't run through line rushes, but before Dach was assigned to Rockford, he took several spins on the first line with Toews and alternated with Drake Caggiula and Alex DeBrincat. It's possible Dach starts on the wing, where he can play top-six minutes and not have as much responsibility as a center would.

"I've played wing in previous years, so it's not something that's new to me," Dach said. "At the same time I'm open-minded to just getting into the lineup and helping the team win."

The Blackhawks can give Dach up to nine NHL games before deciding whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.

"As a kid you always grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, so there'll be nerves," Dach said. "But there will also be a lot of excitement. I've just got to do my best to focus on my game and be ready to play whenever my name's called upon by the coaching staff."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis welcome Nick Gismondi into the fold before discussing Friday's win over Columbus. Robin Lehner played stellar and is forming quite a tandem in net with Corey Crawford (4:10), while the DeBrincat/Kane connection is alive and well (6:10), and the Blackhawks' struggles at even strength continued (12:10). Then, the guys react to the breaking news of Kirby Dach's recall from Rockford and discuss where he might fit into this lineup (15:10).

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.