CHICAGO -- Kris Versteeg still believes in himself.
Versteeg dealt with some frustration after being a healthy scratch for the Chicago Blackhawks in two of their last five playoff games, but his confidence hasn’t been shaken. He’s still sure he can contribute, and that’s what he’ll look to do when he returns to the lineup for Game 5 of their second-round series against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.
“I think confidence is always an issue with any hockey player,” Versteeg said after the team’s morning skate on Sunday. “I’m fine. I understand what I can do and my abilities and when given an opportunity I know I can be an effective player. Hopefully tonight’s the night.
“Obviously, I bring skill and maybe tenaciousness on the puck. That’s just the way I’ve always played, is an offensive style and try to be good in my own zone. I don’t know. Just try to bring an all-around game that I’ve always been able to do.”
Versteeg skated on the Blackhawks’ top line alongside Bryan Bickell and Jonathan during the morning skate. Versteeg began the playoffs on the first line and was demoted as time went on. He has played on the fourth line and been scratched over the last two series.
Versteeg has two assists and a minus-1 rating in seven playoff games this season. He has a 44.6 Corsi percentage; the Blackhawks have 58 shots for and 72 against with him on the ice in 5-on-5 situations in the playoffs, according to extraskater.com. He had 10 goals, 19 assists and a plus-9 rating in 63 regular-season games for the Blackhawks after being acquired from the Florida Panthers in November.
Versteeg was a healthy scratch against the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of a first-round series and in Game 4 against the Wild on Saturday. He also missed Game 1 against the Wild because he was ill. He had been a healthy scratch just one other time in his career prior to this season’s playoffs.
“You always want to play and be a part of it, but again you have to understand why you’re not in and you got to find a way to get in the lineup,” Versteeg said. “And when you do, you got to find a way to stay in the lineup. It’s just something you don’t want to happen, but when it happens you try to chase the positives and learn lessons from it.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was hopeful Versteeg would bring something more than his previous games.
“We’re looking for more directness in his game, more pace,” Quenneville said. “We were ready to start him at the beginning of the series and he was sick. We want to get him up to speed where he’s contributing with the puck, without the puck, influencing both ways, and have more speed in his game.”
Quenneville has said a number of times Versteeg needs more pace in the playoffs. Versteeg was asked to explain what Quenneville meant.
“You know more than me maybe,” Versteeg said. “I think it’s just play faster and play faster with the puck.”
And that’s what Versteeg will attempt to do in Game 5.