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Blackhawks still have high hope in slumping Kris Versteeg

Updated: May 12, 2014 12:24AM



Forward Kris Versteeg was a disappointed healthy scratch in Game 4 of this playoff series. He opened Game 5 on the Blackhawks’ top line. Things happen quickly around here.

‘‘You obviously want to play,” said Versteeg, who has had an uneven-at-best postseason entering Sunday: no goals, two assists and a minus-1 in seven games. ‘‘You also understand you try to be part of a team here. You have to understand why you’re not in, and you gotta find a way to get in the lineup. And when you do, you gotta find a way to stay in the lineup.

‘‘It’s something you don’t want to happen. But when it happens, you try to chase the positives and learn lessons from it. I’m excited to get back in.”

Coach Joel Quenneville has been trying to light a fire under Versteeg in hopes of recapturing the power he provided in the run to the Stanley Cup in 2010. After a slow start in the opening round (no goals, two assists, minus-2), Versteeg had six goals and 12 points and was a plus-6 in the final three rounds.

‘‘We’re looking for more directness in his game, more pace,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘We were ready to start him at the beginning of the series, and he was sick. We want to get him up to speed, where he’s contributing with the puck, without the puck, influencing both ways, and have more speed in his game.’’

In other words, he simply has to play better than he has. He said the healthy scratches haven’t hurt his confidence.

‘‘I understand what I can do and my abilities, and when given an opportunity, I know I can be an effective player,’’ he said.

At least at the outset Sunday, Versteeg was given the best opportunity, playing on the No. 1 line with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell at home.

‘‘I bring skill and maybe tenaciousness on the puck,’’ Versteeg said. ‘‘That’s just the way I’ve always played, an offensive style, and try to be good in my own zone. Just try to bring an all-around game that I’ve always been able to do.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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