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.

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.