Blackhawks: Kris Versteeg pokes fun at former teammate Jonathan Toews


Blackhawks: Kris Versteeg pokes fun at former teammate Jonathan Toews

RALEIGH, N.C. – Kris Versteeg couldn’t resist.

The Carolina Hurricanes forward will always be close with his former Blackhawks’ teammates, with whom he helped win his second Stanley Cup last spring. But when asked by Hurricanes television who his favorite Blackhawks player to chirp was, Versteeg said that was easy.

“Toewser’s the easiest,” Versteeg said of Jonathan Toews. “He’s just a big baby. He’s just an overgrown baby.”

Of course, Versteeg was joking with the Blackhawks captain. But that didn’t stop him from sending his good-natured ribbing directly to Toews, too.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“I actually even told him myself, just so people know, I definitely texted him myself and told him that, too,” Versteeg said to laughs. “They asked me [about who to chirp], I thought I’d answer as truthfully as I could.”

Versteeg and the Hurricanes handed the Blackhawks a 2-1 loss in Chicago on Dec. 27. The Blackhawks began what would be a franchise-best 12-game winning streak the next game. As far as Tuesday's matchup, Versteeg knows it’ll be another tough test for a Carolina team that’s gained points in seven of its last 10 games.

“To be a part of this [Carolina] team all season, watching young guys get better and grow and start winning more consistently, especially since December rolled around, it’s been real exciting and rewarding. Hopefully we can keep building on that but we have our work cut out for us tonight,” Versteeg said. “It’s going to be a tough two points and if we put our best foot forward, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?


Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?

On the latest edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast, Charlie Roumeliotis is joined by Scott Powers of The Athletic to discuss Stan Bowman's comments following the Marian Hossa trade and debate whether they're finished making moves this summer.

They also provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks' top prospects and which players have caught their attention as development camp winds down.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Jonathan Toews watched a lot of playoff hockey this spring. 

"Quite a bit," he admitted Wednesday before making his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut at MB Ice Arena. "More than usual."

That's because the Blackhawks missed out on the postseason for the first time since his rookie year in 2007-08. It's obviously not a position he'd like himself or his team to be in, especially after experiencing three Stanley Cups in a six-year span.

But you have to find a way to take the positives out of it at this point and let it fuel you for the upcoming campaign.

"You always want to be there playing," Toews said. "But when you can maybe step away from the game a little bit and just kind of breathe and — at the same time, look back and realize you’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of success. Obviously there’s no satisfaction there, but you understand it’s not the worst thing to stop and smell the roses and appreciate what you’ve been able to experience, because I think failing to get to the playoffs makes you realize how difficult it really is and maybe it’s something you took for granted.

"But watching more hockey this spring, I think, is something that was really motivating and kind of inspiring and exciting to want to get back to that level again. You dream of playing in the NHL, but at the end of the day, you want to play playoff hockey. That’s what it’s all about."

There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Blackhawks last season and contributed to why they watched the playoffs from home, whether it's the Corey Crawford injury, the down season from Brandon Saad, or the inexperience on the blue line.

For Toews, who turned 30 in April, it's about regaining that old form that made him one of the top players in the NHL and hoping it can filter down the rest of the Blackhawks lineup.

"For me, it’s part of just recapturing that energy, that motivation, excitement and that mindset of a young player who takes nothing for granted, that you had in your younger days," he said. "But also carrying the experience with you and understanding the impact of what you say, what you do, how you carry yourself can impact your teammates, especially the young guys. For me, it comes down to knowing what to say at the right time. But letting my play be the thing that helps me lead by example. No better time than now to use that experience and that excitement trying to rebound off the season we had last year."

If there's any reason to have belief that the Blackhawks can turn it around quickly, look no further than the two teams that collided in the Stanley Cup Final: Vegas and Washington. 

The Golden Knights had the longest odds to win it all at the beginning of the season while the Capitals' championship window was perceived to be closed after they failed to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 in the second round yet again with a loaded roster. But it's not about what's on paper.

"Watching that last series, you just knew it came down to who had the most, the deepest belief in themselves," Toews said. "I even had a hard time predicting who was going to win every series. It could’ve gone either way in a lot of situations. It’s not only motivating, seeing how fast that play was and to have missed out on playoff hockey this year and to have the drive to get back there, but knowing if you do sneak into the playoffs it doesn’t matter. You can go a long way.

"For us, thinking, 'OK, we're gonna back and win a Stanley Cup this year,' it sounds like a long shot. But as always, our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs and being ready to hit our stride when we get there."