No longer snake bit? Stalberg scores a pair

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No longer snake bit? Stalberg scores a pair

Friday, Sept. 23, 2011
Posted: 9:24 p.m. Updated: 10:28 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com Blackhawks InsiderFollow @TraMyersCSN
Box score Photo gallery
VIDEO: Stalberg feels he'll score a lot of goals
VIDEO: Saad working hard to impress
VIDEO: Coach Q thrilled with Saad, Stalberg
VIDEO: Keith sees big difference from last year

Viktor Stalberg has had his snakebit past.

The Blackhawks forward has always had the speed and the potential to be a consistent goal scorer. But he had his struggles last season, and shots that deflected off teammates and off posts and crossbars didn't help.

But Stalberg's determined to get consistent on offense this season. On Friday, he certainly took a step toward that.

Stalberg scored two goals, both in the third period, as the Blackhawks came back to beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 in their home preseason opener. For Stalberg, Friday's outing was a reward for his work. He was getting good scoring chances and was able to capitalize in the third period.

"I'm getting more quality chances out there. When you get those you'll score eventually," said Stalberg, who made a strong third-period combination with Jonathan Toews and rookie Brandon Saad. "I think I'm more prepared this year, more calm in my game."

That calm, Stalberg said, comes with his new security. Stalberg signed a two-year deal this past summer and said he feels more comfortable knowing he'll be here a while.

""The contract gives you more breathing room," he said. "You don't have the pressure every single time you step on the ice. That's nice."

True, but it hasn't made Stalberg complacent. He's using his speed to help create opportunities, be it open space or shots. So far, it's working.

"Whether it's more patience, confidence in the scoring area or knowing his speed could be effective and he can beat people wide, his overall game's improved," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We always notice his speed and energy. He's looking for more responsibility, looking at our lineup and playing with different guys. He's had a real positive start to the season."

Now it has to translate into the regular season.

"If I keep creating those they'll go in eventually," he said. "I have to keep creating chances. I might not get the highest shooting percentage in the league, but if I keep getting those shots, those chances, I'll get my goals."

Saad story

Rookie Brandon Saad's legend continues, as he scored his first goal on Friday. Oh, and it was the game-winner, too. And his continued impressive play has earned Saad another game, against Detroit on Sunday.

So could the 18-year-old make this Blackhawks team?

"I don't know. If he keeps doing that every day we'll probably be talking about him the next day," Quenneville said. "It's not something we envisioned, but every training camp there's someone who gets your attention and captures it, makes you look at the case differently. He's done that."

Fight me
Jamal Mayers came to the defense of his teammate by fighting Washington defenseman Danny Richmond. (US PRESSWIRE)
Danny Richmond was ready to pick a fight with youngster Saad after Saad hit Alex Ovechkin in the second period. Saad wasn't biting. But Jamal Mayers hit the ice soon after, and was willing to go. Mayers made quick work of Richmond, much to the delight of the United Center crowd.

"Jammer's a great character guy," said Stalberg, who also played with Mayers in Toronto. "He works hard and he's a great guy in the locker room. We're fortunate to have him on our squad."

Briefly

Crawford was strong in his preseason debut, stopping 24 of 26 shots. "He was excellent," Quenneville said. "They had a lot of traffic at the net, (Ovechkin) was dangerous and (Corey) had a great save at the end. He was very good, very sharp and we needed him to be."

The Blackhawks assigned 11 players to the Rockford IceHogs on Friday afternoon: forwards Brandon Bollig, Chris DiDomenico, Byron Froese, David Gilbert, Andrew Shaw, David Toews and Paul Zanette as well as defensemen Simon Danis-Pepin, Shawn Lalonde, Ryan Stanton and Ben Youds.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews sounded somewhat frustrated but cognizant of the situation.

If it were the postseason there’s no doubt he would be playing right now. That’s not a surprise to hear, considering what hockey players put themselves through when the playoffs start. But this is early December. There are too many games remaining. And with it coming down to making sure he’s healthy for the long haul, it’s an easy call.

Toews practiced on Friday for the first time since being hurt, but he won’t travel to Philadelphia when the Blackhawks face the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. It will be the fifth consecutive game Toews has missed since he was hurt against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23. Still, him skating on his own and then practicing with teammates for a few minutes is a good sign that Toews is closing in on a return.

“Just come back and check in again [Saturday], see how it is and hopefully, I guess as they say, re-evaluate for Sunday,” Toews said on Friday. “It’s never fun to miss any time, especially when the team is playing as many games as they are. So nice to get back out there and move around and get going a little bit.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Toews was placed on injured reserve on Friday, retroactive to Nov. 24, the day after he was injured.  Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Toews feels on Saturday and, “we’ll get a better idea going forward. But he’s not on the trip.”

“You gotta be fully recovered and want to make sure guys are 100 percent before they can play,” Quenneville said. “Jonny plays at a certain pace and it’s all out, so let’s make sure he’s more than ready when he’s coming back.”

Several have reported that Toews has a back injury, and the captain was doing several back stretches during Friday’s session. Toews left in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Sharks, moments after he went down awkwardly. But Toews said he wasn’t hurt on that play. 

“I think it was just something that started to aggravate in the first period. I tried playing in the second and that instance right there, just went down like a ton of bricks,” Toews said. “I was trying not to aggravate the injury more than I already had. That wasn’t where I got hurt; [it was] probably the instance people were looking for to see what the explanation was.”

If this were April and the playoffs were about to begin, Toews probably wouldn’t be as patient with his injury. But it isn’t, and he will be. It’s not worth making worse. The Blackhawks have managed to get points in his absence, going 3-0-1 so far.

“It’s the type of thing most guys would be able to suck up and play if it were a playoff game and putting everything on the line. But at this point, with the amount of games left in the season, it’s not something you want to continuously deal with,” he said. “If you aggravate it, it’ll keep coming back to haunt you. It’s tough to hold back and do less than you know you can, but in the long run, trying to make sure I get back to 100 percent.”

BRIEFLY

- Trevor van Riemsdyk was activated off the injured-reserve list and is expected to play against the Flyers.

- Marian Hossa took practice off. He is expected to play.

-  Corey Crawford will start vs. Philadelphia.

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers have the latest on Joel Quenneville's group in this edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland NW Indiana Honda dealers.

The Blackhawks are once again taking care of business, going 3-0-1 with their captain Jonathan Toews on the sideline. They're also 6-2-2 against the East this year, and they'll get another chance to add to that record when they take on the Flyers this week.

Here's what our Blackhawks Postgame Live crew had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Aehad.