Versteeg showing his postseason experience

Posted: April 25, 2011

BUFFALO - You write his name down constantly.

"Versteeg, blocked shot . . . Versteeg, clear . . . Hit, Versteeg."

"Nice feed, Versteeg."

Through six games, Kris Versteeg has made his presence known in a way not nearly as noticeable during the regular season, when fans sometimes wondered why the Flyers traded for him, especially during their uninspired, regular-season finish.

Moments before his second effort led to yesterday's overtime goal and extended his newest team's season, Versteeg had cleared a slow, dribbling puck from his own crease.

"I think [Drew] Stafford just threw it on net," he said, dismissing the importance of the play, but we have seen weaker shots find their way through in this series.

The larger point, though, is it is exactly the type of play that makes you scribble down his name into the notebook, the same type of effort that led to the winning goal in yesterday's 5-4, Game 6 victory. With two Flyers deep in Buffalo's end, Versteeg's original flip onto the net was blocked by Sabres center Paul Gaustad, who moments before had nearly ended the game with his own attempt in the crease.

"I got a fortunate bounce in that it came right back," said Versteeg, but we have seen the Flyers skate right past such bounces throughout this series. "If it gets turned over it's going to be a two-on-one the other way. I was fortunate to be able to stop."

Fortunate, heady, experienced. These were the kind of plays Versteeg made against the Flyers in last year's Stanley Cup finals. He had 14 points in the Blackhawks' 22-game run, including six goals, and last night's assist was his fourth of the young playoffs, and, by far, the most important.

Versteeg put on the brakes, got his stick on it, and his second try bounced off the stick of Mike Richards and landed at the feet of Ville Leino, who teed it up and beat Miller for the game-winner.

"I was actually tired," Richards said. "I was going to the bench and I just realized it was four-on-three. Versteeg made a good play to hold on to the puck with some patience and throw it on the net. It was finally good to get a lucky bounce."

What's that line about luck being the offshoot of opportunity and preparation? Including his trade to Toronto, Versteeg has played in three different systems over the last 12 months. It might explain, he said, why his postseason has looked more amped than his regular season. Certainly he's been a gnat to the Sabres, just like he was to the Flyers last spring. Versteeg is plus-5 in this series, second only to Kimmo Timonen, who, after a plus-3 day yesterday, is plus-7.

"Kris has got a quick stick," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. "We've said that from the time that he's got here. He's tenacious. He darts in and he darts out and he turns a lot of things over."

Said Versteeg: "You play teams one at a time, so sometimes it's tough to play the regular season the way you do in the playoffs. You're just trying to play with a little more added energy. I'd like to chip in with a goal here or there. But I'm sure it'll come if we keep advancing."

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