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Versteeg could be scratched for Game 1

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- It appears Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg will be the odd man out at the start of the Western Conference Second Round series against the Minnesota Wild.

Versteeg wore a white jersey Monday at the Blackhawks' practice facility and took line rushes outside the top four lines in Chicago's first practice since eliminating the Nashville Predators in the first round.

"I didn't mind him in the series," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Versteeg, who had one goal and averaged 15:34 while playing all six games. "I think we talk about attacking with speed [with Versteeg]."

Teuvo Teravainen, a 20-year-old rookie who was scratched the final four games against Nashville, skated in Versteeg's spot.

The situation is similar to the start of the first round for Quenneville, who scratched forwards Antoine Vermette and Andrew Desjardins for the first two games against Nashville.

"It's kind of like when we went into the last series, we had these decisions to make," Quenneville said. "[This] decision and weighing them is probably very comparable."

It's about depth up front and getting production from those who do play. The Blackhawks were actually outscored 21-19 by Nashville, so Quenneville is hoping to create a spark offensively. He apparently settled on scratching Versteeg in favor of Teravainen, if for no other reason than just shuffling the deck.

"You could say one guy for another guy, we're not losing a ton or we're not gaining a ton," Quenneville said. "But I just think [there's] nothing wrong with changing."

Teravainen was the right wing on the third line with Vermette at center and Patrick Sharp back at left wing, and wants another taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's a little faster, maybe," Teravainen said. "Guys are hitting everything. It's pretty physical. I like the pace. I like the way only winning matters. I like how it is."

Bryan Bickell, who spent most of the season on the third line, was moved to the second line with center Brad Richards and right wing Patrick Kane. Bickell has scored seven goals against the Wild in the playoffs the past two seasons and Quenneville hopes his 6-foot-4, 223-pound body can have the same impact around the net again.

"It's a factor," Quenneville said. "Getting to the net against this team is what makes him so effective. The quality of the chances are limited as well. Just getting a shot on net sometimes is an achievement. We're still going to need a net-front presence."

In the meantime, Versteeg is prepared to play the waiting game.

"Wherever I go, I try hard," Versteeg said. "Whether it's a white sweater, red sweater [in practice], it doesn't matter to me. I'm just trying to play my game. If I'm in the lineup, I am. If I'm not, I'm not. It is what it is."

Versteeg also struggled last year after returning from major knee surgery that cut short his 2012-13 season with the Florida Panthers. He didn't have an extra gear in the 2014 playoffs, and finished with a goal and two assists in 15 postseason games.

This season, Verteeg got off to a better start but fractured a bone in his wrist blocking a shot during the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals. He missed six weeks, scored four goals in his first seven games upon returning but had one goal and two assists in the final 20 games of the regular season.

Now, after one round of the playoffs, he might be outside the playing group.

"Every guy wants to play [and] wants to be in the lineup, but if you're not, it is what it is," Versteeg said. "You just got to be ready for whenever you're called."

Author: Brian Hedger | Correspondent

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