Stalberg set to emerge as power play threat for Blackhawks

Stalberg set to emerge as power play threat for Blackhawks
January 15, 2013, 10:08 pm
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Viktor Stalberg kept hoping he would get an opportunity on the Blackhawks power play last season. But despite scoring 22 goals, the most in his young career, Stalberg wasnt really given the chance.

Now it looks like hell get it.

Stalberg, who tallied all of his goals at even strength last season, should be getting some power-play time with the Blackhawks this season. His first chance will come in the Blackhawks lone scrimmage, a simulated game with the Hawks and Rockford players, tomorrow night. That probably wont be the best gauge for seeing how Stalberg could do, but that will come soon enough when the Blackhawks play the Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

For Stalberg, its an opportunity hes long wanted.

Its good if thats the case. Im looking forward to that opportunity, Stalberg said. I looked for it last year but it didnt happen. It was frustrating at times. But if I get the chance, its up to me to make a difference there.

Stalberg got some power-play work while playing in Europe this fallearly winter, first with Frolunda and then in the KHL. In Sweden, especially, he was the net presence. And thats what coach Joel Quenneville sees him doing on the Blackhawks power play.

Viktors working on it, and well get to see that tomorrow, Quenneville said. Hes produced very well for us 5 on 5, and everyone wants a chance on the power play. Hes got a big body, big stick.

This could be a big year for Stalberg. Its already a contract year, and hes coming off a 43-point season during which he moved up and down the lines and was in the Columbus Blue Jackets nightmares he had eight goals and two assists against them last season. For Stalberg, its not about setting a numbers goal. Its about improving all around.

I just want to keep getting better, keep playing more, Stalberg said. I want to be involved in more key situations with the team, whether its (playing) the last few minutes of the game or being on the power play. If you get to do those things, youre numbers are going to improve as well. I just want to keep improving.

That includes on the power play. When he gets on it.

One thing is to get in front of the net and disturb, create traffic and havoc. And deflect pucks better, Stalberg said. Just the little things that keep getting better with experience. Last year was only my second full year, so those things are still improving.

Quenneville said its important for Stalberg to be as strong without the puck as he is with it.

Hes dangerous when he has it. Hes a threat to score off the rush but he opens up space for linemates as well, Quenneville said. Its that awareness, more so without the puck, that needs steady improvement.

Stalberg is currently playing on the Blackhawks third line with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. Its a bit of a different role he played there some last season, but not much. Regardless, Stalberg is embracing the opportunity. Be it that one, or that power play.

Whatever role, Ill try to do my best at it. I want to play with the top guys as well, Stalberg said. Lines dont stay the same very long for this team, so you cant be frustrated or anything. Im looking forward to playing with who I am (playing with) right now.