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Versteeg back in Blackhawks lineup for Game 7

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg is back in the lineup for Game 7 of the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings.

He replaces defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, who was used as a forward in Game 6 with Versteeg scratched.

The Blackhawks have clawed back from a 3-1 series deficit to force the deciding game Sunday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). In Game 6 at Staples Center, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville scratched Versteeg, who struggled in Game 5, and played Brookbank up front.

Versteeg is playing right wing on the fourth line with left wing Brandon Bollig and center Michal Handzus, who started Game 6 as the center of the third line. He has one goal and two assists and is minus-5 in 14 games in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Chicago's third line is comprised of left wing Patrick Sharp, center Marcus Kruger and right wing Ben Smith, a combination that played well when put together in spurts for overtime of Game 5 and throughout Game 6.

"They played a lot in the last two games," Quenneville said of the third line. "They scored a big goal for us last game. They give us some speed, some ability to check. I think they give us some balance, as well. I thought the three of them worked well together two games ago, played together a lot, for sure the overtime part."

Smith said the combination works because there's a little bit of everything on the line. All three have speed, can take faceoffs and make plays on the offensive end.

"The biggest thing for us is being strong defensively," Smith said. "Adding [Sharp] on there, I think we can add an element of offense that this team needs. It's exciting for us to get a bit more ice [together], a bit more opportunity and try to make the most of it."

Chicago's top two lines remained the same as the past two games, including the second unit that features right wing Patrick Kane and has given the Kings a lot of trouble defending.

Here are the projected lineups:


Marian GaborikAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tanner PearsonJeff CarterTyler Toffoli

Dwight KingJarret StollJustin Williams

Kyle CliffordMike RichardsTrevor Lewis

Jake MuzzinDrew Doughty

Willie MitchellSlava Voynov

Alec MartinezMatt Greene

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones

Scratched: Colin Fraser, Brayden McNabb, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Jeff Schultz, Linden Vey, Andy Andreoff, Jordan Nolan, Jean-Francois Berube

Injured: Robyn Regehr (knee)


Bryan BickellJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Brandon SaadAndrew ShawPatrick Kane

Patrick SharpMarcus KrugerBen Smith

Brandon BolligMichal HandzusKris Versteeg

Duncan KeithNiklas Hjalmarsson

Nick LeddyBrent Seabrook

Johnny OduyaMichal Rozsival

Scratched: Sheldon Brookbank, Peter Regin, Joakim Nordstrom, Jeremy Morin, David Rundblad, Klas Dahlbeck

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