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Versteeg gets first shot at playing former team

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 12:56 PM / NHL Insider

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Versteeg gets first shot at playing former team
Originally, Kris Versteeg was gearing up for his first game against the Blackhawks, but after a trade from the Maple Leafs to the Flyers, now he'll get a crack at facing off against Toronto.
PHILADELPHIA -- When Kris Versteeg arrived in Toronto over the summer, he circled March 5 on his calendar. That's the only time this season the Maple Leafs will play his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks.
 
However, when Versteeg was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 14, he had to get a new calendar. On that one, the first day he circled was March 3.
 
"I said I was looking forward to the March 5 game against Chicago," Versteeg said following Thursday's morning practice here at Wells Fargo Center. "I played four years there, built a lot of friendships there, so now I guess we're going to turn the Chicago game into Toronto because this is the only time I'll get to play against a former team."
 
There won't be any great reunions for Versteeg on Thursday when he takes the ice for the first time against the Leafs. He only played 53 games there, and already a few other former teammates have been moved.
 

"Doesn't really matter to me anymore," Versteeg said. "I care about being a Philadelphia Flyer now. When I was in Toronto I cared about being a Toronto Maple Leaf. You look at the standings and you see, but I'm not going home and turning on the TV specifically to watch them. I'm focused on helping this team win and trying to be as big an impact (player) as I can."
 
That hasn't happened yet, as Versteeg has just 1 goal -- an empty-netter -- and 1 assist in seven games with the Flyers. He's played mostly at right wing on a line centered by Mike Richards. It's likely left wing Andreas Nodl will complete the trio Thursday against the Leafs.
 
"I'm not sure," Richards responded when asked why Versteeg hasn't had more of an impact. "I've been trying to find it, too. I think I've played with everybody on the team at some point. I'm not sure why, but hopefully we can find that chemistry soon and stick with it down the stretch."
 
Coach Peter Laviolette, however, said he's happy with how Versteeg has played, especially in the team's most recent game, a 4-1 loss to Ottawa on Saturday.
 
"His last game in Ottawa he had nine attempts at the net, five of them hit, four of them missed, lots of opportunities," Laviolette said. "I think it's just a matter of getting settled in and knowing your teammates and getting a comfort level with me, the system, the players. It's hard to get traded, hard to come into the middle of a team, especially our team, and expect it to be instant. He played his best game in Ottawa."
 
Laviolette said he didn't think he'd have to say much, if anything, to Versteeg about playing his former team Thursday.
 
"I probably won't say much to him," Laviolette said. "I think it's different when someone's there for five or six years. His stay there wasn't that long. I think he's fitting in here just fine and I think he'll be fine tonight."
 
Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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