Versteeg's return to Chicago hits home

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Versteeg's return to Chicago hits home

Kris Versteeg is hearing it from his ex-Blackhawks teammates. Theyre giving the Florida Panthers forward flack on everything from his rap skills or lack thereof, according to Patrick Kane to his long hair, which Jonathan Toews tried to coax him into cutting.

Yeah, its always been a thing of Toewsers, trying to get into your head, said Versteeg, who returns to the United Center for the first time since Game 5 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. Last night he let me know about it, but its not going to go anywhere anytime soon. Hell have to cut it off in my sleep.

All kidding aside, today is an emotional day for Versteeg, who took a minute to look at that Cup banner hanging in the United Center rafters before the Panthers morning skate. He helped put it there, and it was special to finally see it.

It was really weird, said Versteeg, who leads the Panthers in goals (17) and points (39) this season. I didnt get to see the banner raised, so (today is) the first time I got to see that. It was a pretty neat experience what you got to accomplish with the team. But Im excited about (tonights) game, excited to get this thing going.

Its the first return for several Panthersformer Blackhawks today, including Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and Jack Skille. But the longest absence has been for Versteeg, who played with Toronto and later Philadelphia last season, but after the Flyers visited here in January of 2011.

Everything the Blackhawks accomplished that Cup year came back to Versteeg.

Its obviously very emotional. It hits home, Versteeg said. You spend so much time and effort as an individual to get to the NHL and then win the cup. Its emotional looking at that, in more ways than one, but it was pretty special to finally see it.

As for his rap career, Versteeg said hes working on a few things. Kane will probably have some fun with that.

You call those (rap) skills? That was pretty embarrassing, Kane said. Hopefully we dont have to see any of that for a while.

Blackhawks recall Johansson, assign Schmaltz

Blackhawks recall Johansson, assign Schmaltz

The Blackhawks will be without their No. 1 goaltender for a few weeks, so the obvious backup call-up came on Sunday morning.

At the same time, the Blackhawks are going to give one of their forwards a little work in the minors.

The Blackhawks recalled goaltender Lars Johansson from the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday morning. They also assigned forward Nick Schmaltz to the IceHogs.

Johansson has a 6-7-1 mark with 2.63 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 16 games. This comes one day after Corey Crawford had an appendectomy in Philadelphia prior to the Blackhawks’ 3-1 loss there. Crawford, according to the team, is expected to be out 2-3 weeks.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Schmaltz has a goal and three assists in 26 games with the Blackhawks this season. Schmaltz is one of several forwards who got a top-line opportunity this season and, much like most of the others, couldn’t stick there. He has struggled to find a consistent game.

The Blackhawks face the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night. Scott Darling is expected to get the start.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Jets tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Jets tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Seeking revenge.

In their first meeting of the season, the Jets ended the Blackhawks' 11-game point streak by shutting them out 4-0 in Winnipeg. The Blackhawks will look to get even tonight when the Jets come into their building, where the Blackhawks are 10-1-2. The Jets haven't been as successful away from home, carrying a 4-8-2 road record into the United Center.

2. Tired legs? Not so fast.

It will be a quick turnaround for the Blackhawks, who will play their second game in as many days traveling from Philadelphia to Chicago. But don't expect fatigue to play too much of a role. Well, maybe it will, but the Blackhawks have been close to perfect in the second of a back-to-back with a 4-0-1 record compared to 3-3-0 in the first game. It also helps that Saturday's game against the Flyers was at 12 p.m., giving the team some extra time to recover for a divisional matchup. The Jets, on the other hand, will being playing in their second game in as many nights as well, having played St. Louis last night which ended in a 3-2 overtime win for the Jets. 

3. Who's in, who's out on D?

Trevor van Riemsdyk returned to the lineup Saturday, and certainly showed some rust after missing more than six weeks with an upper-body injury. With it being the second of a back-to-back, the Blackhawks could look to rotate the blue line and reinsert Gustav Forsling, who was a healthy scratch for the first time, back into the equation and perhaps Michal Rozsival, too.

4. Patrik Laine.

The No. 2 overall pick in 2016 has scored four goals and an assist in his last three games, continuing his phenomenal rookie campagin. He's on pace to reach almost 40 goals, which is incredible for a rookie in an era where scoring gets harder and harder. He's tied with Sidney Crosby for the league lead with 16 goals, one of which came against Chicago in the first meeting. 

5. Capitalize on special teams.

The Jets haven't been particularly good on special teams lately. They're 3-for-26 on the power play in their last 10 games, which is an 11.5 percent success rate, and are 26-for-36 on the penalty kill (72.2 percent) in their last eight. Their power play percentage ranks 20th in the league at 15.2 and penalty kill ranks 25th at 79.0. They're trending in the wrong direction. The Blackhawks are still struggling to find a rhythm on the power play, so perhaps this is a good opportunity to break through.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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