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Blackhawks to see familiar faces in playing Panthers

by Brian Hedger

PANTHERS (26-21-12) at BLACKHAWKS (35-20-5)


CHICAGO -- After taking a long look in the mirror, the Chicago Blackhawks will try to end a three-game losing streak while getting a look at their past at United Center on Tuesday.

The Blackhawks conclude a disappointing eight-game homestand against the Florida Panthers, who have six former Blackhawks in their organizational system and five on the NHL roster.

Injuries and ineffective play will keep all but Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell and forward Jimmy Hayes from facing their former team, but they'll have plenty of motivation being back at the Madhouse on Madison Street.

"It's always fun playing your old teammates, especially Brian Campbell," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said after Chicago's morning skate. "I got along with him good here and we're good friends to this day, so it's always fun playing guys you're familiar with. When you get out on that ice, the competitive nature takes over and you want to win the hockey game and do everything you can to get the best of them."

Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg has played for both teams. He helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010, then played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and Panthers. Florida traded him back to Chicago last season in a trade that sent Hayes and defenseman Dylan Olsen to the Panthers.

"Florida was huge for me," said Versteeg, who had 54 points (23 goals) in 71 games in 2011-12 for the Panthers, the only full season he played in Florida because of injuries and the trade. "It helped me. I played the best hockey of my career there, that first year when I wasn't injured. I really enjoyed the time there and the experience, to become a top guy on a team and help a team that way."

Four other Panthers have Blackhawks roots as well. Center Dave Bolland signed with Florida as a free agent last offseason, while Campbell, forward Tomas Kopecky and center Brandon Pirri were each sent to the Panthers by Chicago in separate trades.

Upper-body injuries will keep Bolland and Pirri from playing. Kopecky will be a healthy scratch after having no points and a minus-6 rating in the past six games. Olsen is currently playing for Florida's affiliate in the American Hockey League.

"Anytime against any team you've played for, it's always fun to come back and see some old faces," said Campbell, who was traded from the Blackhawks to the Panthers at the 2011 NHL Draft. "It's another game on the schedule, but for us, I think this one's a little bit closer to the end of the season than when we're normally here and we're trying for the playoffs. They're battling for points too. It's going to be an exciting game."

The Chicago connection on the Panthers doesn't end with the players.

Blackhawks assistants Kevin Dineen and Mike Kitchen coached with the Panthers in separate stints, with Dineen the coach from 2011-14. Florida general manager Dale Tallon preceded Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman in Chicago, and Panthers assistant coach John Madden centered the Blackhawks' fourth line for much of their run to the 2010 Stanley Cup.

Tallon is the main reason so many former Blackhawks dot his team's roster, drawing from veteran experience in some cases and granting more opportunity to prospects. Hayes, a 6-foot-6, 221-pound power forward, is a good example.

"It’s all about opportunity and playing," said Hayes, who has 17 goals and 10 assists playing on the top line. "I've just got to continue to develop my own game as a big power guy. Everything's a business thing. Now it's just about opportunity and it's going well."

Rookie goaltender Scott Darling will start for the Blackhawks, while veteran Roberto Luongo will start for the Panthers.

Here are the projected lines:


Jussi JokinenNick BjugstadJimmy Hayes

Jonathan HuberdeauAleksander BarkovBrad Boyes

Tomas FleischmannVincent TrocheckScottie Upshall

Garrett WilsonDerek MacKenzieShawn Thornton

Brian CampbellAaron Ekblad

Dmitry KulikovErik Gudbranson

Steven KampferAlex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Scratched: Sean Bergenheim, Tomas Kopecky

Injured: Willie Mitchell (upper body), Dave Bolland (upper body), Brandon Pirri (upper body)


Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Patrick SharpBrad RichardsPatrick Kane

Bryan BickellAndrew ShawKris Versteeg

Joakim NordstromMarcus KrugerBen Smith

Niklas HjalmarssonBrent Seabrook

Duncan KeithMichal Rozsival

Kyle CumiskeyDavid Rundblad

Scott Darling

Corey Crawford

Scratched: David Rundblad, Tim Erixon, Daniel Carcillo

Injured: Trevor van Riemsdyk (patella surgery)

Status report: Quenneville said there could be some news regarding van Riemsdyk following the game. It could be a conditioning stint in the AHL or the Blackhawks might activate him for the upcoming road trip. … Bergenheim will miss a seventh straight game as a healthy scratch and has played two of the previous 11 games. … Wilson will make his season debut, but what line he's on is a guess. Coach Gerard Gallant only said he would play left wing.

Who's hot: Toews has two goals and four assists in the past four games, including a goal in the Blackhawks' most recent game Sunday.

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