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Regin relishes chance to play for Stanley Cup contender

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Updated: March 2, 2014 11:21PM

At the time Peter Regin was traded, the New York Islanders had lost six of seven games to fall out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Regin, a free-agent acquisition last summer, had two goals in 44 games, was a minus-10 and had struggled to find a consistent role on a last-place team.

So, no, Regin wasn’t shocked that he was part of the first of what could be several trades the Islanders will make before Wednesday’s trade deadline.

“I was just surprised that I got picked up by probably the best team in the league,” Regin said.

Funny how that works sometimes. The Blackhawks have developed something of a reputation for taking other teams’ afterthoughts and turning them into key contributors. Johnny Oduya went from being a journeyman struggling in Winnipeg to a top-four defenseman for the Hawks in 2012. Michal Handzus was a healthy scratch for six consecutive games in San Jose before coming here at last year’s trade deadline, only to center the Hawks’ second line and win the Stanley Cup.

Now it’s Regin’s chance to take a step up from a lesser role on a lesser team. He got a few shifts centering Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg on Thursday and scored a goal. He was a healthy scratch Saturday but figures to play — or at least get the chance to play — a prominent role down the stretch.

“Joel [Quenneville] has a great feel for how to use players and get the most out of them,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “One of his qualities that is really maybe underrated is finding a skill that a player does well and allowing him to do that. We allow our offensive players to have some freedom to do the things they do with the puck.”

Regin, 27, considers himself an offensive player. He has just 22 goals in 224 career games with Ottawa and the Islanders, but he’s rarely had an opportunity to open his game up. The speedy center believes he can be a good fit in the Hawks’ skill-oriented system.

“I talked to my agent when I got traded, and he said that’s what Chicago does — players will fit in here that maybe don’t fit in as well on other teams,” Regin said. “The style of play here, with a lot of speed and a lot of forecheck, that probably fits my game better than the pure grinding game, where you’re hitting all the time and kind of just grinding it out.”

It remains to be seen whether Regin can take that second-line center role and run with it. Handzus still is the likeliest candidate to take that spot once the playoffs begin. But Bowman believes Regin, who also played left wing for the Islanders, can thrive on any of the Hawks’ lines.

“In terms of players fitting in, we have a lot of strong players around them — we don’t just rely on one line,” Bowman said. “We try to play a pretty balanced game, top to bottom. People call it our fourth line, but Marcus Kruger played great in the Olympics, won the silver medal. . . . That line plays the same style as all the other lines. They play a puck-possession game. They like to hold on to the puck and make plays.”

That’s what Regin likes to do, too. And he’s thrilled to finally have the opportunity to do it — especially on a contender. Tuesday’s game against Colorado will be Regin’s first home game at the United Center. He got a brief taste of playoff madness in 2010 with Ottawa and can’t wait to see what it’s like here.

“Everybody wants to be in the playoffs,” Regin said. “That’s when it gets really fun. I don’t know what the atmosphere will be like here, but I can imagine it’s pretty crazy.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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