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Blackhawks' Versteeg replaces injured Bickell

by Brian Hedger

TAMPA -- The past few days have been a blur for Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg, who replaced Bryan Bickell for Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Wednesday, two days after he became a father for the first time.

Versteeg didn't have a point in 9:32 of ice time. He skated primarily at left wing on the second in Bickell's spot.

Chicago scored twice in the third period for a 2-1 win. Game 2 will be played Saturday at Amalie Arena (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"Yeah, it's been a whirlwind and it's been emotional … real emotional, obviously," Versteeg said. "It was a really good win tonight, but it's only one and we’ve got to keep going."

Bickell has an undisclosed upper-body injury and was held out for precautionary reasons, according to what Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Kitchen told NHL Network.

"I think he's close," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after the game. "We'll see how he is the next day or so."

It was the first game Bickell has missed this postseason, who was unable to play the final two periods of Game 7 in the Western Conference Final at the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. He sat on the bench the remainder of that game after playing the first period.

Heading into the Cup Final, Quenneville said it was part injury, part benching. Bickell participated in the morning skate as usual, manning the left side of his line with center Brad Richards and right wing Marian Hossa. The change to Versteeg was made prior to the game, which Versteeg was informed about in the morning.

"[I] just got told to maybe be ready, and basically [Tuesday] too … just be ready if [Bickell] couldn't [play]," Versteeg said. "I just tried to go out there and bring energy and play a game and get a W. That's the most important thing."

Versteeg had his own injury scare at 13:28 of the second period, when his face hit the right goal post on a hard charge to the net and was assessed a minor penalty for goaltender interference. Quenneville said he was checked afterward for a head injury and passed the League's return-to-play protocols.

"Yeah, that was a little ugly, but I had to collect my thoughts there and go on with the game," Versteeg said.

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