Stalberg's game maturing


Stalberg's game maturing

Viktor Stalberg celebrated his 26th birthday on Tuesday. And as Stalberg gains a year in his life, hes also gaining maturity in his game.

Stalberg has flourished lately, and has set new career highs in goals (14) and points (28). He garnered NHL second-star honors for his performance last week, when he scored five goals -- including his first career hat trick -- and an assist.

Not bad statistics for a guy who moved up and down the four lines earlier this season. Stalbergs found his newest niche with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane; and those linemates, coupled with Stalbergs talent, has led to big production.

Hes brought good energy to that line, coach Joel Quenneville said. It seemed liked he was more effective in the puck area. He finishes plays, and makes some on his own as well. He had an outstanding week. Putting that (consistency) in, game in and game out, hes really helped himself this year.

Perhaps, all Stalberg needed was time. Although hes now 26, its easy to forget that Stalberg is still a relatively new guy in the NHL. This is just his third season; make that two and a half seasons since he played just 39 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2009-10 season.

Stalberg showed spurts of potential last season, but now hes catching on in all areas. He a few games with the checking line, too, and said even things he picked up in that short stint help him now.

Playing with (Dave Bolland), I had the puck a little more and maybe I realized I could do a little more, Stalberg said. Even with Kane and Toews I still have to use my assets. I know I can hold onto the puck a little bit, make some plays.

Teammates have noticed Stalbergs progress this season.

The best part of his game lately has been his relentlessness on the puck, said Jamal Mayers, who has been Stalbergs linemate this season. Hes such a quick guy that even when he loses the puck hes got a quick stick. When youre playing with two great players (Kane and Toews) like he is, hes able to sustain the attack by stealing pucks.

Hes coming into his own on what hes capable of doing, and starting to see some of the rewards for his hard work, Mayers said.

Stalberg turned a year older on Tuesday. His games been maturing right along, too.

Hes come along since the beginning of the year. The little things that compliment his speed and his shot and his skills, general hockey instincts, he seems to be progressing, Quenneville said. Hes more reactionary than hesitant, and that speeds a great asset. Hes more predictable where hes going to be. He seems to be improving in that area.

PHOTOS: Blackhawks hit the road sporting Cubs attire

PHOTOS: Blackhawks hit the road sporting Cubs attire

The Blackhawks hit the road on Thursday, and they did so in style.

In support of the Cubs participating in the World Series for the first time since 1945, each member of the Blackhawks sported a Cubs jersey and World Series hat as they hopped onto the plane and traveled to New Jersey.

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It may not have been as whacky as Joe Maddon's themed road trips, but it's still a perfect excuse for breaking the dress code just this once.

Check out the photos below:

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

When coach Joel Quenneville has put Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together it’s usually been during the postseason.

It’s rare when it happens in the regular season and when it does, it seems like an in-case-of-emergency move. But in this case, it may be more of a get-the-captain’s-production-going move.

The Blackhawks made a few more line changes on Thursday, including combining Toews and Kane, as they prepared for Friday night’s game at the New Jersey Devils. Marian Hossa moved to right wing on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov. Marcus Kruger and Nick Schmaltz flip-flopped as third- and fourth-line centers. Tyler Motte and Ryan Hartman were the third-line wings while Dennis Rasmussen and Jordin Tootoo were on the fourth line.

Coach Joel Quenneville said the line changes, including Kane’s move to the first line, were because the Blackhawks continue to look for balance. To a point, that’s true; the Blackhawks still haven’t come close to getting that four-line rotation with which they’ve found so much success. But considering how successful the Toews and Kane combination has been for each, you’d have to think it’s to help bolster Toews’ point totals. Toews has just two assists through the first seven games.

“Right now I think Jonny, his production isn’t where you look at his play – we still always like the way he plays, he’s so useful in so any different ways,” Quenneville said. “I think maybe we get more balance on both lines. We’ve been trying a number of different looks in our top two groups there. over seven games we still need to be better in a lot of ways. hopefully we can find it.”

Still, if you can get your top players producing points, it’s worth a try. And Kane and Toews, regardless of how long they’ve been apart, usually click immediately upon reuniting.

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“Yeah, I guess change can be good in this sense. We can probably produce a little bit more offense and have the puck a little bit more throughout the game,” Kane said. “I’ve played with Jonny a bunch before. Obviously, not as much lately. But I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a fun way to play hockey. Obviously he’s one of the best players in the game, and probably in my mind, the easiest player to play with. It’ll be fun to get back out there with him and try to create something, try to produce and have some fun with it.”

As for that usual second line of Panarin, Anisimov and Kane, remember: as we’ve seen before, it can be put together again fast.

“They get a lot of shifts and a lot of looks. It’s not like we’re too far away from going back to it at any time. It’s always close and available,” Quenneville said. “Maybe we get more balance and a little more scoring across the board.”


- Defenseman Gustav Forsling (upper body) did not skate on Thursday and will not travel to New Jersey. Quenneville is still hoping Forsling can play on Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Kings.

- Forward Andrew Desjardins (lower body) continues to improve. Quenneville said Desjardins could be skating in the next day or so.

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Devils.