Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Kris Versteeg rested entering Game 2

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Blackhawks: Kris Versteeg rested entering Game 2

TAMPA, Fla. – Kris Versteeg looked like a happy man as he talked about his wife and child, who are doing very well back home.

“I guess he’s a handful right now, but it’s exciting,” said Versteeg with a big smile on his face. “Lot of FaceTime going on.”

Versteeg is also a more rested man after a few days in Tampa. That’s good, because it looks like he’ll be in the lineup again tonight when the Blackhawks face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

[MORE: Vermette coming up big for Blackhawks]

The Blackhawks forward was coming off a hectic but happy few days on Wednesday, when he played for the first time since Game 3 of the Western Conference final. He was set to travel to Tampa with the team on Monday but headed to Toronto instead, where he and his wife welcomed their first child, a son they named Jaxson. Versteeg joined the team here on Tuesday and, substituting for Bryan Bickell, who was a late scratch, played about 9 1/2 minutes in Game 1.

Versteeg should be fresher coming into tonight’s game.

“Yeah, the last couple of days it was nice to get a rest, let the body heal and get ready to go for the next game,” he said following Saturday morning’s skate. “That was a lot of adrenaline pumping (on Wednesday), especially getting through that game. It’ll be good to settle in, hopefully play a good game and help out the team any way I can.”

UPDATES

-- Informed that Tampa Bay forward Cedric Paquette was going to chirp him in Game 2, Jonathan Toews said, “"He'd have big shoes to fill following Ryan Kesler. I'm looking forward to hearing some of that."

-- Corey Crawford and Brad Richards did not skate on Saturday morning. Coach Joel Quenneville said both are fine and will play tonight.

-- The Blackhawks will go with the same six defensemen as in Game 1.

-- Bryan Bickell (upper body) looks to be a scratch again tonight.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”