Versteeg a hit in new role

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
 
 
Posted5/29/2010 12:01 AM

The list of unsung heroes for the Blackhawks heading into the Stanley Cup Finals is a long one, but right near the top should be Kris Versteeg.

A player known mostly for his offensive skill during the regular season, Versteeg has accepted the challenge of playing on the checking line in the playoffs and been a difference maker with Dave Bolland and Andrew Ladd.

 

"It's something during the season you play different, but when you're put in that role and you're playing against the top line you've got to be a lot smarter," Versteeg said. "I don't think I played against top lines a lot during the season.

"It doesn't matter what role you're given as long as you go out there and do the best you can and believe in the system and you'll be successful. I'm happy with myself, but I know I can do a lot more and be even better."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville deserves credit for seeing in Versteeg a guy who could thrive ina checking role.

"Steeger is always useful as a player," Quenneville said. "His vision and patience with the puck is high-end. I think he has the ability to finish and he has the ability to check. He's had a nice playoff year as well, but that line has been effective and they should all take a little bit of credit."

In or out: Andrew Ladd (upper body) didn't practice Friday, but there still is a chance he could play in Game 1.

If Ladd can't go, Joel Quenneville has several options to replace him with Dave Bolland and Kris Versteeg. It could be Tomas Kopecky, Troy Brouwer or Ben Eager seeing time there.

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Kopecky likely would dress and it's possible he could return to playing with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa like he did earlier in the playoffs.

Good news: When NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday at the United Center the salary cap for the 2010-11 season likely would go up about $2 million, Hawks fans everywhere had to feel at least a little better.

With the Hawks facing series cap issues this off-season, an extra $2 million or more could be the difference in keeping a restricted free agent such as Andrew Ladd.

The salary cap this season was $56.8 million and the Hawks already have about $57.5 million committed for next year to just 14 players.

Bettman also said next season's schedule would be released earlier in June 22.

The Hawks will open the season on Oct. 7 against Colorado, but it still hasn't been determined is the game will be in Chicago or Denver.