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Versteeg, Nordstrom ready to help Canes

The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

A few months ago, Kris Versteeg stood on a stage in Chicago's Soldier Field and yelled into a microphone: "When the music starts we need everybody to DANCE!"tmpplchld An audience of more than 60,000 Chicago Blackhawks fans were gathered to celebrate another successful Stanley Cup run, and Versteeg joined teammate Joakim Nordstrom in singing a few strains from Macklemore's "And We Danced."tmpplchld "And we danced, and we cried, and we laughed and had a really, really really good time. Take my hand, let's have a blast, and remember this moment for the rest of our lives."tmpplchld The two forwards sounded pretty good, having had "a couple of soda pops," as Versteeg put it. Versteeg then lifted the Cup over his head, handing it off to Patrick Kane as Chicago fans roared and the good times rolled.tmpplchld That was in June. Flash forward and Versteeg and Nordstrom are preparing for a new hockey season _ with the Carolina Hurricanes.tmpplchld The two were traded by the Blackhawks to the Canes on Sept. 11 as Chicago looked to resolve salary-cap issues. Going back to Chicago in return were defensemen Dennis Robertson and Jake Massie, plus a 2017 draft pick.tmpplchld "Obviously it was a surprise," Nordstrom said Tuesday. "You're never safe with any team. You can always get moved, get traded. You never know.tmpplchld "But that's the charm of it, too. I feel like this trade was good for me, and it's going to be fun to be with this team and grow with this team."tmpplchld Versteeg, 29, won Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks in 2010 and 2015. He also played with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers in the years between the two Cups, competing often against the Canes in the Eastern Conference.tmpplchld Versteeg always considered the Canes a fast, skating team and that impression hasn't changed.tmpplchld "This team has size and speed," he said. "There are guys who can skate real fast and don't get the notoriety they probably deserve around the league, and now you get to see how really good they are."tmpplchld Versteeg also sees some comparisons between the Canes, who haven't reached the playoffs since 2009, and the Florida team that won the former Southeast Division title in 2012. That ended a 12-year playoff drought for the Panthers.tmpplchld "We didn't have an extremely talented team," Versteeg said. "We were a team that played good defense and was able to win those close games. It's really about surviving those close games."tmpplchld The Canes (2-2 preseason) face the Washington Capitals on Wednesday in their first home exhibition game at PNC Arena. It appears Canes coach Bill Peters will use Versteeg on a line centered by Eric Staal with winger Elias Lindholm, and he also should be on a power-play unit with Staal, Lindholm, Victor Rask and Faulk.tmpplchld Nordstrom, 23, can fill several roles. He can kill penalties. He can play on different lines.tmpplchld "He's a great two-way player," Versteeg said. "He can help us play against the top lines, five on five. He's probably got one of the best shots I've seen and doesn't get credit for it because he focuses on his defense."tmpplchld Nordstrom split last season between the Blackhawks and the Rockford IceHogs, Chicago's AHL affiliate. He got in 38 regular-season games for the Blackhawks and three Stanley Cup playoff games.tmpplchld A visa issue caused Nordstrom to be late in reporting to the Canes' camp and he played some catch-up.tmpplchld "Coming in, with a new system, it takes a few practices and a few games to get into it and play by reacting and not thinking too much," he said. "Maybe I'm not there yet but I'm on my way, for sure. I feel I'm getting better every day."tmpplchld The Canes were 27th in the NHL in scoring last season and are counting on a boost from Versteeg, who has scored 20 or more goals three times and had a career-best 23 in 2011-12. Traded to the Blackhawks in November 2013, the Lethbridge, Alberta, native appeared in 27 playoff games the past two years for Chicago.tmpplchld "He's got a lot of skill and he's a very smart hockey player," Peters said. "He knows where he's supposed to be on the ice in every situation."tmpplchld Versteeg's "day with the Cup" this summer was spent with family and friends in Lethbridge. The second time around, he said, was more special in that he and his wife, Brittany, could celebrate with their baby son, Jaxson.tmpplchld "Both times, it's almost like you're living a dream," Versteeg said. "But I'm excited about this season, about being part of this team."tmpplchld ___tmpplchld (c)2015 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)tmpplchld Visit The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) at www.newsobserver.comtmpplchld Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.tmpplchld

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