Kris Versteeg back at the United Center as a visitor — again
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Sunday night wasn’t the first time Kris Versteeg walked into the United Center as a visitor. But it was the first time he returned as a reigning Stanley Cup champion.
“It’s still strange coming back, but it’s exciting,” the Carolina Hurricanes winger said before the game. “In 2010, I didn’t get the opportunity to come back after we won, so this is really exciting for me and I’ve been looking forward to it.”
Versteeg hardly was blindsided by the Sept. 11 trade that sent him and Joakim Nordstrom to Carolina for two prospects and a fifth-round draft pick in 2017. He had been traded after a championship before, he knew the Blackhawks were up against the salary cap, and his name was perpetually in trade rumors in the spring and summer. But he was grateful that the move didn’t come until the end of the summer, which allowed him to revel in his second championship.
“In 2010, it happened right away and I didn’t get to maybe enjoy it as much as I would’ve liked to,” Versteeg said. “This time, it was just kind of enjoying the whole process of winning and realizing how special it was. [Then] you let the business take care of itself and not worry about it so much.”
Versteeg — who called Chicago “a second home to me” — has five goals and 14 assists in 34 games while playing on the top line with the young Hurricanes.
For Nordstrom, the move was a boon. A fringe roster player for the Hawks, he has assumed a much larger role for the young Hurricanes, playing on the second line alongside Jordan Staal. He has two goals and five assists in 24 games.
“It’s been good,” he said. “I play a lot more this year, a lot more minutes every game. … I spent five years here with the [Blackhawks]. It’s always tough getting traded the first time. But I saw a good opportunity in it and welcomed it.”
Defenseman Rob Scuderi was sporting a nasty gash on his upper lip and cheek after taking a puck to the face in Dallas last Monday. Scuderi, who doesn’t wear a visor, was fortunate to escape serious injury.
“It was pretty gross when it scabbed over,” he said. “It looked like I had a growth on my face. … It made for some interesting family photos [on Christmas].”