Two weeks from the day he went down with a lower-body injury, Kris Versteeg could be back in the lineup for the Chicago Blackhawks, as they host the Philadelphia Flyers. Originally slated to miss three weeks after suffering the injury on October 7th, all signs point to Versteeg returning against his former club.
You do hope that Versteeg isn't rushing back, but his presence could be a welcome one if he can showcase a return to form. He's coming off of a disastrous postseason which led to seemingly the entire Hawks fanbase clamoring for his departure from the team. Assuming everything goes according to plan, he'll be back in the mix on Tuesday, which means some things for the Blackhawks' lineup.
Versteeg skated with Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw on the second line at practice on Monday, which is an intriguing development in itself. The assumption was that he'd be on the third line, with Bryan Bickell and Brad Richards. Instead, Brandon Saad joins that line, which could use the help. Their possession numbers haven't been good, and they've been drawing some tough assignments, but they did look better on Saturday night, Brad Richards in particular. Adding Saad to that duo could help the third line get going.
Which left the fourth line as Daniel Carcillo, Marcus Kruger, and Ben Smith. Carcillo is the best possession player on the team, in terms of Corsi (sample size) and that trio can be an asset for the Hawks in generating a forecheck and keeping the puck down in the opponents' end. If any group is going to stick together, it's this one.
This leaves Jeremy Morin as the odd man out. It's frustrating, both for Morin and from an outsider's point of view, that Morin continues to be hamstrung by the coaching staff and will once again be on the outside looking in. At the same time, it's not at all surprising, given Joel Quenneville's handling of him in the last few years. If Versteeg plays well and the team maintains health for a solid stretch, it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see Jeremy Morin traded at some point.
Nonetheless, the story here is Kris Versteeg and what he can bring back to the lineup. He looked like he had an extra step in the preseason and was looking really strong before the injury. He's a versatile forward who can play all over the lineup, which is obviously what the coaching staff likes. Again, though, given that it was recovery from a knee injury that slowed him last year, you hope that coming back doesn't affect him too much, especially returning from his injury as early as he is.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.