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Blackhawks' Oduya likely for Game 4, Versteeg in

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO --  Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya is likely to play in Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at United Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), but there are changes coming to the lineup.

Defenseman Kyle Cumiskey will be replaced by 40-year-old veteran Kimmo Timonen, and forward Kris Versteeg will re-enter the lineup to play left wing on the second line in place of Bryan Bickell. Versteeg played the first two games of the series when Bickell had vertigo, but was a healthy scratch for Game 3 on Monday.

"We wanted [Bickell] in Game 3, gave him an opportunity to get in," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I don't think [Versteeg] deserved to come out. I think he gives us a threat offensively, [he's] defensively aware, [and has] strength in the puck area. He can make some plays. I think he can add to some of our offense."

After playing the entire Western Conference First Round against the Nashville Predators, Versteeg was a healthy scratch for all four games of the second round against the Minnesota Wild and six of the seven games in the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks.

"[I'm looking to] just to go out there and play my game," Versteeg said. "I thought the first two games, there [were] glimpses of it, but I really look forward to trying to get my entire game back to where it should be. I know what my game is, and when I'm playing, I know what I can do."

Quenneville said he hopes Versteeg can spark right wing Patrick Kane, who doesn't have a point in the series.

"[Kane] knows what he needs to do," Versteeg said. "One goal here or there, or one nice play here or there, he's a guy who can really be motivated off a great play. Hopefully that's tonight."

Defense is as big a concern for Chicago. Lacking quality depth, Quenneville played his top four defensemen about 90 percent of the time in the first two games. He would've done it again in Game 3, but Oduya sustained an upper-body injury that limited his ice time and put his status for Game 4 in question.

Oduya and Blackhawks top defenseman Duncan Keith didn't participate in the morning skate Wednesday, but each is expected to play. Quenneville used the term "likely" when asked if Oduya would play.

Timonen will make his series debut after last playing in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. His lack of speed has been an issue, but Quenneville is choosing Timonen's experience over the speed of Cumiskey, who was on the ice for the game-winning goal in Game 3 scored by Tampa Bay forward Cedric Paquette late in the third period.

"[Timonen] gives us some predictability," Quenneville said. "He's smart, experienced. I think he did a good job for us throughout the playoffs. [It] gives him a chance to get in here in a good moment, a big moment. His reads and his positional awareness and coverage in his own end will help him."

It's been a challenging stint with the Blackhawks for Timonen, whose ice time hasn't been near what was expected since Feb. 27, when he came to Chicago from the Philadelphia Flyers in a trade. He's averaging 9:25 of ice time in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and even less in certain games.

"It is [frustrating], but it's not about me," Timonen said. "It's about the team. Coaches make the decisions. They put the best lineup on the ice and that's it. I'm just the one piece of the team here. I decided I'm going to work hard at the [practices] and stay positive and make sure if that chance comes I'm ready to go, and it looks like it's here."

Here are the projected lineups for Game 4:


Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

J.T. Brown - Cedric Paquette - Brenden Morrow

Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Jason Garrison

Matthew Carle - Andrej Sustr

Nikita Nesterov

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Mark Barberio, Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Marchessault, Vladislav Namestnikov

Injured: none


Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Kris VersteegBrad RichardsPatrick Kane

Patrick SharpAntoine VermetteTeuvo Teravainen

Andrew DesjardinsMarcus KrugerAndrew Shaw

Duncan KeithNiklas Hjalmarsson

Johnny OduyaTrevor van Riemsdyk

Kimmo TimonenBrent Seabrook

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Scratched: Bryan Bickell, Kyle Cumiskey, Joakim Nordstrom, Daniel Carcillo, David Rundblad, Antti Raanta, Phillip Danault, Ville Pokka, Ryan Hartman, Viktor Svedberg

Injured: Michal Rozsival (left ankle fracture)

Status report: According to line rushes at the morning skate, Quenneville has decided to keep Toews and Kane split up onto the top two lines rather than re-pairing them on the top line with the last change at home. … van Riemsdyk said he was pleased with his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut in Game 3 and is ready to absorb more minutes if Oduya's ice time is limited by his injury.

Who's hot: Keith has an assist in seven of the Blackhawks' previous nine games this postseason, including Game 3.

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