After a rather dreadful showing for the Chicago Blackhawks in the club's 5-4 double-overtime victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, forward Kris Versteeg is out of the Blackhawks' lineup for Game 6. The Blackhawks pulled a surprise move by adding an extra defenseman into the lineup in the form of Sheldon Brookbank.
Versteeg, who was part of Chicago's 2010 Stanley Cup team returned to the Blackhawks via an early-season trade with the Florida Panthers. He had 29 points in the 63 games after the trade, but has only had three points in 14 games this postseason, finding himself in and out of the lineup.
It had previously appeared that forward Peter Regin would be inserted in Versteeg's spot, but head coach Joel Quenneville is going with extra defensemen instead. Brookbank has played some forward this year as well if they plan to use him that way.
Game 6 is a must-win game for Chicago, trailing the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 in the series. With this game on the road and Versteeg being stapled to the bench for much of Game 5, particularly after a turnover that helped lead to Dustin Brown's goal, it looked like he was firmly in head coach Joel Quenneville's doghouse.
Brookbank probably won't get a ton of minutes, so it's hard to know exactly how much of an impact will make. In fact, it could be a bit of a questionable one that could draw some criticism as Regin had been mostly effective in the only five playoff games he's played this year.
Brookbank has mostly played defense this postseason, appearing in six games earlier in the playoffs and recording two assists. He'll likely be asked to play more of a crash-and-bang physical role in a game that is sure to be tightly-checked.
If Quenneville is concerned about Versteeg's propensity for costly mistakes, it was the right call to take him out of the lineup, but inserting Brookbank may not offer the flexibility up front he'd have had with a natural forward. This could be a very interesting roster decision to watch in a must-win game for the Blackhawks.