Kris Versteeg said his return to the United Center went about as well as he ever could have hoped for.
He stood at his stall still in awe that he was back in the Blackhawks' locker room following their 5-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night.
It was the return he had always hoped for since being dealt following the Hawks' 2010 championship season.
"It was emotional obviously coming back," he said. "Last night wasn't the way I saw coming back in my head, but tonight was very exciting and the guys put in a big effort."
Versteeg made his debut the night before in Nashville as the Blackhawks played their roughest game of the season in their 7-2 loss to the Predators. He admitted he felt a whole lot of nerves when he rejoined his former team, but being back inside the rink he felt most at-home at brought out his best as he recorded a goal and an assist in front of a crowd that was thrilled to have him back in a Blackhawks sweater.
"(Nerves kicked in) in the first period again," he said. "Being back here I was definitely nervous to play in front of these fans again. I think once we settled in I started to feel good again, obviously the result, I couldn't be happier."
It was a return that couldn't come fast enough for Versteeg. It was also one he didn't think could be possible for quite some time.
"Me and (general manager Stan Bowman) talked about it the day he traded me to Toronto. I told him if there's ever a way, I'd love to come back, and obviously there was a way," Versteeg explained. "I didn't foresee it for a few more years until I was a free agent. It was a great present, an early Christmas present."
That present turned out to be the gift that kept on giving Sunday night as Versteeg's performance with Patrick Kane and Brandon Pirri on the Blackhawks' second line shaped up to be a pretty impressive one.
That line recorded a total of two goals and three assists against San Jose, and coach Joel Quenneville was happy to see their chemistry develop as early as it did.
"I thought that line was dangerous," he said. "All lines tonight made a contribution to the team game. They made some nice plays, and scoring first certainly helps. Steeger getting his first goal with the Hawks, I'm sure he's excited to be back as well."
Versteeg appeared to be beyond excited during his emotional night inside the United Center. He's confident he's coming into his prime and feels he's a better player than he was the last time he was with the Blackhawks.
But Versteeg doesn't just see that change within himself, he also sees it within his teammates.
"Everyone's gained experience and age and wisdom, even Q coming back, he's got new things he puts out there," he said. "I've seen a lot. I thought coming back I would know most of it, but I definitely don't because that's what good coaches do and good organizations — they try to build on what they've got."
Versteeg's confidence in himself and his team was apparent on Sunday night. He's happy to be back with the organization he never wanted to leave, and his teammates are equally as thrilled about his return.
"I think everyone's happy to have him here," Patrick Sharp said. "Doesn't matter if you were here in 2010 or not — everyone knows what kind of a player Steeger is. He's a great guy for the locker room too, he's already making guys laugh and fitting right in."