RALEIGH, N.C. – Being a healthy scratch usually sends a message that either you need a break, you’re not doing enough, or that you need to take a break because you’re not doing enough.
Regardless of which way you look at it, no player wants to be a healthy scratch.
On Saturday, Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters decided to insert three players from the team’s American Hockey League affiliate club, the Charlotte Checkers, into the lineup.
In were forwards Brock McGinn and Phil DiGiuseppe, along with defenseman Jaccob Slavin, while out were forwards Riley Nash and Kris Versteeg, as well as defenseman Michal Jordan.
Versteeg, the Hurricanes’ third-leading points scorer at the time, was tied with captain Eric Staal with 14 points (2g, 12a), but hadn’t scored a goal since Nov. 1st and hadn’t tallied a point in three games.
Thus, it seemed he drew the short straw following Carolina’s 5-1 loss to New Jersey last Thursday, and was healthy-scratched.
He would watch the Hurricanes eventually beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2.
When asked what he felt about the situation following the pregame skate leading up to that game on Saturday, Versteeg knew why the move was made and seemed more supportive than down about it.
“Hopefully we have a good game,” he said.
“We have some young guys, it’s a good opportunity for them. There’s always guys knockin’ at the door, and all these guys are really good hockey players. Tonight’s gonna be a good test for them against a good team. I just gotta be ready whenever I’m ready to go (back in) again.”
With two Stanley Cup rings and having played on five different NHL teams, the nine-year veteran knew how to deal with the situation.
“I’ve been through a lot of ups and down in my career whether its been injuries and at bad times,” Versteeg said.
“Being healthy-scratched is what it is – it’s part of the game and when you’re not a superstar, every player goes through it. It’s something you try to bounce back from and be better from it. You just gotta take it day by day and realize tomorrow’s a new day. I’ve got a lot of accomplishments – a lot of good things have happened. If I would’ve quit, none of that would have happened. It’s always about getting back and being better and helping the team in whatever way you can.”
It was expected that the trip to the press box would not be a long one, but regardless, Versteeg indicated he was ready to answer the call whenever it came.
“It’s always who I am – I try to compete every night and make things happen,” he concluded.
“Some nights they do, some nights they don’t. When I get back, I’ll be ready.”
In the Hurricanes’ 5-4 win over Arizona on Sunday, Versteeg started the game and answered the call – he finished with a goal and an assist to go along with a plus-two rating.
“You always want to contribute and be in the lineup,” he said.
“I’ve got pride – I think we all do. When you don’t play it hurts that, so you want to be a contributor and try to help out whatever way you can. Fortunately tonight, it was one of those nights.”