Kris Versteeg eagerly awaiting his return to the Hawks lineup

SHARE Kris Versteeg eagerly awaiting his return to the Hawks lineup

Kris Versteeg hasn’t played since Game 6 against Nashville. (AP Photo)

It’s hard enough having to watch in the first place; Kris Versteeg would much rather be playing. The narrow scope of a television camera only makes it worse; Versteeg wants to see the ice in full and watch plays as they develop. But what really drives Versteeg nuts is the 15-second delay between the game action and the NBC Sports broadcast.

Watching a TV in the bowels of the arena with the other Blackhawks scratches —“we’re kind of locked up in a coop,” he said — is maddening. Any goal by the home team is spoiled by the thunderous horn 15 seconds in advance. And every sudden sound can mean anything. Did the crowd just groan in frustration at a visiting team goal, or are arena workers in the next room just talking loudly? Was that rumble because of a big save? A big hit? A goal? Or is a caterer rolling a cart down the hallway?

“Stuff just happens and you’re just baffled,” Versteeg said. “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’s frustration could be coming to an end soon. He hasn’t played since Game 6 against Nashville in the first round, a healthy scratch ever since. But Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said he’s working his way back into the lineup.

“He’s had a great week of practicing,” Quenneville said following Thursday’s morning skate. “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 Teuvo Teravainen. The Finnish rookie has played well, and is unlikely to be taken out of the lineup. One possibility is Bryan Bickell, who has been a presence physically but hasn’t scored in 12 playoff games. Bickell is currently playing in Versteeg’s old spot on the second line alongside Brad Richards and Patrick Kane — a line that was highly productive in the fall, but that has been mostly invisible against the Ducks.

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.”

Versteeg said he hasn’t given much thought to what the future holds. He’s got one year left on his deal at a bargain salary of $2.2 million (Florida is still paying half of his contract), but the Hawks need to shed veterans this summer to get under the salary cap.

“I’ve moved enough, I understand it’s part of the job,” Versteeg said. “I’m more focused on winning the Stanley Cup, and I’ll take care of all of that kind of stuff later on.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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