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Blackhawks' Versteeg healthy, waiting for his chance

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg has returned from a lower-body injury but must wait for an opportunity to crack the lineup in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Versteeg, 28, will be a healthy scratch in Game 4 of the Western Conference Second Round at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2), when the Blackhawks have a chance to end the best-of-7 series with a sweep of the Minnesota Wild.

Versteeg played all six games of Chicago's first-round victory against the Nashville Predators and scored one goal. He was replaced to start this series by rookie forward Teuvo Teravainen and then missed a few days of practice because of the injury, which was his third this season.

"I'm feeling good now," Versteeg said after the Blackhawks' skate. "I'm just kind of waiting now to get in the lineup and trying to be ready for my call. I don't think anyone can ever say they're 100 percent [in the playoffs], but I feel good now and I think it was important to do what I did."

Teravainen has played well in Versteeg's absence, scoring what turned out to be the deciding goal in the Blackhawks' 4-3 victory in Game 1 and assisting on forward Patrick Sharp's goal in Game 2. Teravainen's performance is a big reason Versteeg isn't playing.

"You just wait and hopefully get back in," Versteeg said. "There's nothing you can do. I think if you're happy about sitting out, you shouldn't be playing the game. So, I'm not happy that I'm not playing, but I'm also excited for the challenge to get back in whenever I do."

Versteeg missed 20 regular-season games with two injuries, including a broken bone in his left hand that cost him all of January and two weeks of February. He missed the first four games of the season with a lower-body injury after impressing Chicago's coaching staff in training camp with renewed speed and aggressiveness.

The work Versteeg put in last offseason was more than a year after reconstructive surgery in 2013 to repair his right knee. Last season, his first after knee surgery, Versteeg was traded to the Blackhawks in November and struggled to get back to his pre-injury level of play. He had one goal, two assists and a minus-5 rating in 15 playoff games and vowed to return a better player this season. It looked like he'd made good on it until a puck struck him in the left hand during the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in Washington D.C.

Versteeg had nine goals and 18 assists in 34 games prior to the injury. He had four goals and two assists after he returned in February, with the four scored in his first seven games back. Versteeg had no goals and two assists in the final 20 games and scored the one goal against Nashville in the first round.

"I think it's more unfortunate than anything," Versteeg said. "I had a great season going on and obviously to break your hand makes you take about [six] weeks off. It definitely wasn't ideal for me, but it's just part of the game. Sooner or later, the luck's got to turn, you'd think. For [me], it's just trying to play at the top of my game and help the team out in any way I can."

Here are the projected lineups:

BLACKHAWKS

Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Bryan Bickell - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane

Patrick Sharp - Antoine Vermette - Teuvo Teravainen

Andrew Desjardins - Marcus Kruger - Andrew Shaw

Duncan Keith - Michal Rozsival

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Kimmo Timonen - Brent Seabrook

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Scratched: Joakim Nordstrom, Daniel Carcillo, David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey, Michael Paliotta, Antti Raanta

Injured: Kris Versteeg (lower body)

WILD

Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle

Thomas Vanek - Kyle Brodziak - Nino Niederreiter

Matt Cooke - Erik Haula - Jordan Schroeder

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Nate Prosser - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Scratched: Ryan Carter, Sean Bergenheim, Christian Folin, Jordan Leopold, Niklas Backstrom

Injured: Chris Stewart (upper body), Justin Fontaine (lower body), Keith Ballard (concussion)

Status report: Haula will play his second game of the postseason. He received 10:03 of ice time in Game 2 and did not figure into the scoring.

Who's hot: Dubnyk has allowed four goals on 52 shots during the past two games. ... Kane has scored in four straight games, dating to Game 6 of the first round. He has outscored the Wild 3-1 in the past two games.

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