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Kris Versteeg reflects on brief Bruins career 10.17.13 at 2:23 pm ET
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Kris Versteeg is on his fifth NHL organization. (AP)

Kris Versteeg is on his fifth NHL organization. (AP)

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.”

Read More: Kris Versteeg,
Brad Marchand lifts Bruins past Flyers, 2-1 03.27.11 at 9:44 pm ET
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Brad Marchand made his 20th goal of the season count, as he broke a late tie to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead over the Flyers in Philadelphia Sunday night. With the win, Boston clinches a playoff spot.

Marchand’s tally was his first in 13 games, as he banged home a rebound past Flyers netminder Brian Boucher on the power play at 16:17 of the third period. Both Bruins’ goals came on the man advantage, as Nathan Horton scored his 23rd goal of the season with the B’s on the power play in the second period. Kris Versteeg opened the game’s scoring with a tally for the Flyers in the first period.

Picking up the victory for the Bruins was Tim Thomas, who won his third game in a row and improved his record on the season to 32-10-8.

Read More: Brad Marchand, Brian Boucher, Bruins, Kris Versteeg
Brian Burke: Leafs ‘not done’ dealing 02.15.11 at 2:00 pm ET
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What Brian Burke does leading up to the trade deadline will impact the Bruins. (AP)

Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke spoke Tuesday about his team’s recent activity and what Toronto’s plan is going forward. All of that is directly tied to the Bruins, as the B’s have the Leafs’ first-round draft pick this year from the Phil Kessel trade.

The Leafs traded former Bruins prospect Kris Versteeg to the Flyers on Monday night in exchange for first-and-third-round draft picks. Unsurprisingly, Burke, who willingly traded three picks — two of which were first-rounders — to the B’s in the Kessel deal, is not set on keeping the Flyers’ compensation.

“We put the third-round pick in play last night,” he said. “As soon as we had it, we put it in play to try to get a forward back. We’re not throwing in the towel here, and we’re not done yet, either.”

Asked whether the scouts are happy that he has 10 picks in the coming draft, Burke said the less picks he has on draft day, the happier he’ll be.

“We’re not going with 10 if I have my way. We’re going to try and do something with some of those picks,” he said. “Most draft picks, you don’t see the player for three years, and if we can do something shorter term, we’re going to do it.”

As for the decision to trade Versteeg when he did, Burke said that he likes to “get out in front of the trade deadline” before the “aisles become crowded.” He likened the days leading up to Feb. 28 to a “cattle stampede” and said he has heard that the Versteeg deal caused other teams to ramp up their efforts to get deals done.

“I know from talking to a couple other GMs that our trade set off a big surge of phone activity last night,” he said. “There’s only so many quality players available at the deadline, and I know there was a frantic response to this trade, but we’ve been busy on the phones now for a while.”

Perhaps the most interesting response from Burke came when he was asked about the decision to trade Versteeg. The team had acquired the winger in the offseason and he had 14 goals and 21 assists for 35 points.

“I remember when I was a rookie GM, I asked Harry Sinden back in ’92. I said, ‘Any advice?’ He said, ‘Yeah, when you get a player that’s not working out, fix it.’ Kris just didn’t mesh here,” Burke said. “It’s no fault of his. He’s a good player and he’s a good guy, and he worked hard. We felt this was a good price tag for him, and we made the trade.”

The Maple Leafs have 52 points on the season, which is the fifth-lowest total in the NHL.

Read More: Brian Burke, Kris Versteeg, Phil Kessel,
Cross Kris Versteeg off the list of Bruins’ trade targets, and hey, the Leafs have a first-rounder 02.14.11 at 6:47 pm ET
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Kris Versteeg has a new home. (AP)

Less than a week after the Predators’ trade for Mike Fisher ruled out one trade possibility for the Bruins, the Flyers have taken yet another name off fans’ wish lists. According to a tweet from TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Flyers have shipped first-and-third-round draft picks to the Maple Leafs for the 24-year-old winger, who has 14 goals and 21 assists for 35 points in 53 games this season.

What does this mean for the Bruins? Well, for starters, it means that the guy they once traded along with a draft pick for Brandon Bochenski is now worth first-and-third-round picks. Secondly, and more importantly, it means that the Maple Leafs’ first-rounder, which the Bruins own, is looking better and better the more they sell off pieces of that roster. Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Bruins, Toronto has 52 points, good for the fifth-worst in the NHL. Edmonton (40 points) is currently in line for its second consecutive first overall pick.

For both the Bruins and prospective trade partners, that’s a good thing. The Leafs clearly aren’t doing much to prevent the B’s from having yet another high pick as a result of the Phil Kessel trade, and anyone willing to do a blockbuster move with the Bruins has to like the idea of selecting in the top five or higher.

From an on-ice standpoint, the top team in the Eastern Conference just got tougher. Peter Chiarelli all but guaranteed the team would make a deal before the Feb. 28 trade deadline in talking to Dale & Holley last week, and now it’s looking like it will have to be a big one.

Read More: Kris Versteeg,
Versteeg is the one that got away 11.11.08 at 1:48 pm ET
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Versteeg has perfected the art of the dangle in the Windy City

Versteeg has perfected the art of the dangle in the Windy City

Sometimes the deals that stand out like a blinking neon marquee in the minds of NHL executives across the NHL landscape are the ones that simply got away from them. A potentially successful deal that was passed over due to prohibitive cost or concerns about how much an older player still has in his career tank, or frittering away a young asset on the verge of development into a bone fide NHL maker of plays.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has stayed the course with the vast majority of young players that are now flourishing within a rising Boston Bruins organization, but Chicago Blackhawks right wing Kris Versteeg easily qualifies as “the one that got away” for a B’s GM that’s been coming up aces lately. The 22-year-old Versteeg was the Bruins prospect sacrificed in a forgettable deal — along with a draft pick – for minor league journeyman Brandon Bochenski, who totalled 11 goals and 17 assists in 51 games over two seasons for the Bruins before plummeting off the Black and Gold landscape. At the time of the trade, Versteeg — a B’s fifth round pick in the 2004 draft – had 22 goals and 27 assists in 41 games for the Baby B’s and was another in a long and winding line of bright light B’s talent that’s now filling up the roster in the Hub.

Ultimatelly Bochenski was spun off to the Anaheim Ducks for “Sheriff” Shane Hnidy and a sixth round draft pick last season, so currently Hnidy stands as the only remaining remnant from a trade that netted the Blackhawks one of the top rookies in the NHL this season.

Bochenski appears more and more like a career AHL player with each passing period while Versteeg enters Thursday night’s game among the NHL rookie scoring leaders with 3 goals and 9 assists through Chicago’s first 13 games — a stretch that’s also seen him earn PK minutes and impress the Chicago coaching staff with all-around game. 

“Kris has got a ton of skill and its always been National Hockey League level,” said Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland between periods of Sunday night’s Blackhawks/Flames telecast. “The other parts of the game I really had to get through to him…turning pucks over and when not to turn pucks. He’s playing with some real skill guys and he’s a skill guy. He’s getting a chance to show what he can and he’s a competitive kid. I think he’s really matured on and off the ice.”

Former P-Bruins teammates Mark Stuart and David Krejci each remember Versteeg as a crafty, slick offensive playmaker that was among the youngest players in the AHL during his time in Providence, and he’s only grown more dangerous since getting paired with fellow “Young Guns” skaters Pat Kane and Jonathan Toews in Chicago.

“He’s a good player and when I heard that he had a chance to play with Kane and Toews I knew he was going to make it,” said Krejci, who lit up the P-Bruins scoreboard in 2006-07 when they both skated on the same line together. “We had a good time. On the ice and off the ice he was a good guy. We played most of the year together.  He was actually kind of like me as a player: he can handle the puck and he was patient with it to make plays, and he could shoot it. He’s good.

“I guess it was good for him to be able to go out to Chicago and make the team,” added Versteeg.

Stuart qualifies as a willingly physical member of a B’s blueline corps that will be under a good deal of heavy pressure from a young, skilled Chicago attack. Its expected Stuart and Co. will up the physical ante against the young ‘Hawks to slow down the skating speedsters racing up and down the United Center ice before a packed house. 

“I’ve heard he’s doing pretty well,” said Stuart. “But I’m not very surprised at what he’s doing. He’s a really young guy and he’s skilled enough to play with anybody. They definitely have the talent there for him to play with some highly skilled guys.

“He’s able to find guys [out on the ice], he’s got really good hands and is good with the puck and he’s also very shifty,” added Stuart. “He’s good around the net too, so we’ll try to slow him down a little bit and shut him down. Off the ice he’s a nice kid. He was a young kid [during his time in Providence] and he still is…really fun to be around too.”

Apparently he’s also got a devastating singing voice somewhere between Fergie and Jesus…an ear-piercing gift that his teammates in Chicago recently discovered. Here’s the damning video evidence:

 

 –Shane Hnidy skated at practice on Tuesday morning for the first time since suffering a lower body injury against the Dallas Stars 10 days ago, but head coach Claude Julien cautioned that the veteran D-man likely wouldn’t return to the lineup until Thursday night’s much-anticipated home tilt with the Canadiens.

“I don’t think I’m going to dress him [Wednesday night] because it’s been a while, but is he a possibility for Thursday? Yeah,” said Julien.

Speaking of the Habs, Thursday night’s game against the Canadiens at the Garden represents the first of three different Habs/Bruins matchups this season taking place in the second game of back-to-back efforts for the B’s. Thursday night at the Garden is the first, a Nov. 22 Saturday night game at the Bell Centre after a Friday night game against the Florida Panthers is the second and a Feb. 1 Sunday matinee in Montreal following a Saturday afternoon game against the Rangers pulls off the scheduling hat trick.

The Cigarette Smoking Man may be behind the NHL schedule...

The Cigarette Smoking Man may be behind the NHL schedule...

For the consiracy theorists out there, the first two aforementioned games between the two Northeast Division rivals also allows the Habs to enjoy a full day off against a potentially weary B’s team fighting through back-to-back games.

Julien apparently doesn’t believe in the grassy knoll or Area 51, and definitely doesn’t believe that “The Truth is Out There.”

“I guess unfortunately we don’t have much control over the schedule and it’s ironic that its always [Montreal] waiting for us at home, but so be it,” said Julien. “I think the best way to handle it is to have all 19 of your guys going and being able to stretch your bench as much as you can to get the results you want. Then try to get home as quick as possible and get your rest for the following night.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Brandon Bochenski, Chicago Blackhawks, Claude Julien
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