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.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.