The tough outing was glaring for Kris Versteeg on Wednesday night. So was the number of minutes he played after a particularly forgettable shift in the second period, which ended with a Dustin Brown goal: zero.
No time on ice: that’s what Versteeg logged from that point on, a total of 6:48 for the game, which went to double overtime.
“It was a tough night, but you just have to battle through it,” coach Joel Quenneville said of Versteeg, who sat most of the Blackhawks’ 5-4 double-overtime victory over the Los Angeles Kings. "It’s a competitive game, there isn’t a lot of time and space and you have to do what you can to advance the puck and contribute.”
Versteeg didn’t do that, and it will be a surprise if he’s getting a chance to do that again on Friday night.
Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks could have some lineup changes, “but don’t expect many,” when they face the Kings in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. Versteeg seems likely to sit, given his Game 5 outing, or lack thereof. If so, the Blackhawks should consider Peter Regin again. No, he doesn’t have the greatest faceoff numbers; against the Kings, nobody in a Blackhawks uniform has recorded great faceoff numbers. Regin was steady when he was playing, and should get another chance.
As for potential injuries out of Game 5, the Blackhawks look like they’ll be fine. Andrew Shaw, who had his recently injured right leg crunched in a hit late last night, finished the game and is expected to play on Friday. The same goes for Marcus Kruger, who took a big hit from Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin but also finished the game. (By the way, Quenneville had no issues with that hit on Kruger. “It was a good hit but he wasn’t going full speed there. It looked like (Kruger) probably got crushed but it wasn’t that bad. It was right in front of us. I got to see it.”)
When a few players log little ice time, the chief concern is how is this affecting the top players? Quenneville, when asked if this is a concern for his top-nine players, said it’s not.
“I would say their nine probably played as much,” he said.
Looking at the final time-on-ice totals for the top forwards on both teams, that is true. Still, the more balanced the minutes, the better off a team is. If a player logs 10 or more minutes, fine. It’s logging those miniscule minutes, or being sat for the rest of a game due to ineffectiveness, is when it becomes detrimental.
Versteeg isn’t the only one who’s had a tough go of it. We’ve talked about Brandon Bollig plenty these playoffs. Same goes for Michal Handzus, who scored the game winner on Wednesday but admits it’s one great moment in a postseason that hasn’t had many.
“It's one game only. I know I’ve got to get better,” Handzus said. “I haven’t played very well. I want to help the team as much as I can. I’ve been playing on the penalty kill a lot but I (haven’t) played a lot offensively. I wasn’t happy with my play.”