SUNRISE, Fla. — The Bruins are in Florida to face the Panthers, which means they’ll be seeing a familiar face. Kris Versteeg sure must be nervous.
No, Versteeg is no Tim Thomas  when it comes to Boston sports status, but Thursday’s matchup will mark another meeting for the forward against the team that drafted him — and dealt him away in one of just a few bad trades by Peter Chiarelli.
A 2004 draft pick of the Bruins, Versteeg played two seasons in Providence before being traded to the Blackhawks in 2007 for Brandon Bochenski. Versteeg went on to win the Stanley Cup  with the Blackhawks and put up two 20-goal seasons for Chicago (plus one for the Panthers), while the Bruins would discard Bochenski a year later.
“It’s the team that drafted me. Me and David Krejci , we were friends and we had some good times together in Providence,” Versteeg said Thursday. “I have great memories of that organization.”
Indeed, Krejci and Versteeg did get along well. As Versteeg recalls, he wasn’t feeling too great about his game after his WHL career, but he said Thursday that playing with Krejci gave him confidence that he needed to be an NHL  player. His 22 goals in 43 games for Providence in the season he was traded tied his highest junior goal total with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
“I had a bit of a rough road there in junior,” Versteeg said, “then I came into Providence, and playing with Krej — the way me and him found chemistry together and played together, and the points we put up together, it really helped myself realize that I could play this game and I could play at the top level with top guys.”
Krejci said that Versteeg also taught him some things at the AHL level, so their time together was mutually beneficial. You wouldn’t know that from watching them play against one another though, as the two admitted they like to get extra chippy when their teams meet.
“It’s fun,” Krejci said. “I love him, I hate him. It’s a little bit of both.”
The two players have obviously seen their careers take different paths. Krejci has remained a Bruin for his entire career to this point, while Versteeg has been traded a whopping four times. Though they’ve been apart for a number of years at this point, Versteeg said he isn’t shocked to see Krejci become the player that he is.
“For him to do what he’s doing now isn’t a big surprise,” Versteeg said. “I knew he’d be a great player. It was about the chance he was going to get. He got it and he’s definitely taking advantage of his opportunity.”