When Kris Versteeg looked around the locker room before last year’s season opener, he saw a team determined to win the Stanley Cup.
There was Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. The Chicago Blackhawks had a deep, talented group and it was one that would lift the Cup by season’s end, winning for the third time in six years.
Versteeg was a part of it. So was forward Joakim Nordstrom. Both forwards now are members of the Carolina Hurricanes, coming to the Canes in a September trade, although they were to receive their championship rings Thursday before Carolina’s opener against the Nashville Predators.
The Blackhawks awarded their rings Wednesday in Chicago, hours before their opener against the New York Rangers. Versteeg said a team vice president was traveling Thursday to Nashville with the rings for Nordstrom -- who played 38 regular-season and three playoff games for Chicago last season -- and himself.
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It’s Versteeg’s second championship ring. He also won one with the Blackhawks in 2010.
While his team has changed this season, Versteeg said the objective has not.
“I think every team has a goal in mind of winning the Stanley Cup and being there at the end,” he said. “But it always starts with Game One. Looking too far ahead can sometimes do damage to a team, so we’re just looking forward to this first game and this first month of games.”
The Canes have 11 games in October and eight will be on the road because of the annual scheduling conflict with the N.C. State Fair. After Saturday’s home home against the Detroit Red Wings and a home game Tuesday against the Florida Panthers, the Canes will have seven consecutive road games including its first trip West to face the Colorado Avalanche, L.A. Kings and San Jose Sharks.
“It’s a matter of taking care of business day by day, and then as you keep going you keep setting your goals,” Versteeg said. “We’re a team with high expectations of ourselves and will expect to win every single night.”
Canes coach Bill Peters has Versteeg on the top line with center Eric Staal and right wing Elias Lindholm, and on the top power-play unit. Nordstrom will start the opener on Jay McClement’s line with Andrej Nestrasil and will be used on the penalty kill.
Asked what he likes about his new team, Versteeg said, “The personalities. There are a lot of great guys. There are a lot of guys who are very inviting and want you to feel a part of the team right away.
“It’s an easy group to get along with. Everyone cares a lot and you can tell this team wants to win a lot.”