New Flyer Versteeg adds edge to his game

Kris Versteeg has played with more of an edge lately.
Kris Versteeg has played with more of an edge lately.
Posted: March 30, 2011

PITTSBURGH - Ask Peter Laviolette what he has seen in Kris Versteeg over the past few games and the answer is simple.

Versteeg, who has two goals and an assist in his last five games, hasn't just been visible on the scoresheet. He also has been more visible along the boards and in front of the net.

"I think he's played with a little more of an attitude and an edge," Laviolette said. "He's had a little bite in his game.

"He's not a big guy but he can still cause some havoc out on the ice. I think that gets him in the game and his line in the game."

Versteeg, who was acquired by the Flyers in a Valentine's Day trade with Toronto, admittedly had been living in his own world for much of the first month of his tenure in Philadelphia.

Versteeg quickly settled in an apartment just a couple miles from the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees.

"It's the only place I know how to get to," Versteeg said.

In the past few weeks, Versteeg has not only become more comfortable with his surroundings, but also his new teammates.

"For a little while, you're trying out new positions with new teammates," Versteeg said. "Now, I have this sense that I'm comfortable with my teammates. And now that I'm back with 'Richie' [Mike Richards], we're trying to get things going again."

Laviolette said he has seen a marked improvement in Richards' line with Versteeg and James van Riemsdyk. Including last night's game, in which they didn't score once, Richards' line still has accounted for seven of the Flyers' last 17 goals.

"They've generated probably our best chances over the last couple games," Laviolette said. "They've probably been our most productive line, too, putting up a few points."

Defensively, though, is where Versteeg said he is most comfortable. Especially playing in more of a shutdown role with Richards, where the two likely will thrive in the playoffs as a line few teams have the depth to match.

"That's more of my role, and it was really defined in the playoffs," said Versteeg, who was on the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks last season. "I think that's why a lot of people have noticed more of my defensive side here than my offensive side. When you play with Richie, you have to play well at both ends. I think sometimes he makes me look better at the defensive side than, at times, I really am."

Still, 45 days into his routine as a Flyer, Versteeg's road hasn't always been smooth. The Flyers are just 10-6-5 since acquiring him, while his old team, Toronto, is 12-5-4. Versteeg said it's the comparative attitudes of the two teams that present such a stark contrast.

Playing in hockey's biggest market, Toronto has not made the playoffs since 2004.

"It's a loose atmosphere," Versteeg said of the Flyers. "Everyone is excited to come to the rink every day. Sometimes, at points in the season, it's tough to come to work. But this team finds a way to get excited every day. It's nice to be a part of that. It's so different."

Tangradi recovering

Concussions have been a hot topic for the Penguins, as star Sidney Crosby has missed the last 36 games with postconcussion symptoms.

A lesser-known name on the roster, Eric Tangradi, has had a similar tough battle.

Tangradi, 22, is one of just a handful of players from the Philadelphia area currently playing in the NHL. The Roxborough native attended Archbishop Carroll before leaving to play major junior hockey in the OHL in 2006.

Tangradi was blindsided by the Islanders' Trevor Gillies on Feb. 11, which earned Gillies a swift nine-game suspension. Tangradi has missed the last 20 games because of the hit and resulting concussion symptoms. He returned to practice last week but has since been downgraded and is skating on his own again with Crosby and Pittsburgh's other injured players.

Shelley returns

Flyers forward Jody Shelley returned to practice with his teammates yesterday for the first time since undergoing facial surgery to repair a fractured left orbital bone last Thursday.

Shelley, who skated with a full facial shield, is still expected to miss at least another 3 weeks.

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