Kris Versteeg was tired of watching games on television, “locked up in a coop” in the bowels of the arena. With the 15-second broadcast delay, every goal by the home team is spoiled by the thunderous horn, and every rumble in the hallway makes you jump.
“Stuff just happens and you’re just baffled,” Versteeg said following Thursday’s morning skate. “It kind of gives you anxiety. It’s a lot worse. It’s hard to follow the game the way you want to.”
Well, Versteeg will get to see Game 3 live on Thursday — on the ice. In a surprise move, Joel Quenneville inserted Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom into the lineup, replacing Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette. Teravainen participated in warmups, while Vermette did not. It was not immediately clear if either player is injured.
Versteeg hadn’t played since Game 6 against Nashville in the first round, a healthy scratch ever since. But Quenneville said earlier in the day that he was working his way back into the lineup.
“He’s had a great week of practicing,” Quenneville said. “He’s not happy. He wants to play in the worst way. Puts himself as a candidate to get in the lineup. We’ve had some decisions along the way. Last game, we could have inserted him, [so] we’ll see. I like his approach. I told him we expect him in this series.”
Versteeg had one goal and no assists in six games against the Predators, but lost his spot to Teravainen. Teravainen hasn’t had a point in his last four games, after posting a goal and two assists in his first three playoff games. Vermette, meanwhile, has a goal and an assist in 10 playoff games (he was a healthy scratch the first two against Nashville), and had no points and just five shots in his last five games. His presence at the faceoff dot was a big plus for the Hawks against the Wild in the second round, and his line with Patrick Sharp and Teravainen had shown promise.
Versteeg, meanwhile, has been biding his time. Practices are few and far between this time of year, but he said the ice time he’s gotten has been valuable. Certainly better than watching his teammates on TV.
“It’s never easy when you’re not in,” Versteeg said. “You always want to be in and competing and helping the team out whatever way you can. But you know what, you’ve just got to come and be the best teammate you can be, regardless of whatever the situation is. Hopefully when you get your call, you’re ready to go.”