Stalberg hopeful to keep hot streak against Columbus alive

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Stalberg hopeful to keep hot streak against Columbus alive

COLUMBUS, Ohio Viktor Stalberg is attracted to the Columbus Blue Jackets goal like a bull is to a red cape.

The Blackhawks forward just has a penchant for scoring against Columbus, be it here or in Chicago. Of the 43 points he tallied last season, 10 (eight goals, two assists) came in six games against the Blue Jackets. He was a plus-11 in those six games, too.

Its more of a fluke than anything. You just get a little more confidence against certain teams and certain goalies, Stalberg said Saturday morning. But they have a lot of new players this year so Im sure it wont be the same. But Ill look to continue scoring and stay on this good start.

Columbus or not, Stalberg is off to a solid start this season with two goals in the Blackhawks first four games. Stalberg is looking to build off last years numbers of 22 goals and 21 assists. And with Columbus, theres always a chance it could be a multi-point night.

Thats a fluky stat. With some guys, its whether theyre charmed or lucky against certain opponents. The pucks go in for him (against Columbus), coach Joel Quenneville said. Hes quick off the rush and has a dangerous and sneaky shot. Hes gotten power-play time based on how he performed the last couple of years.

Stalberg has been on the Blackhawks power play through the first four games after seeing very, very little time there last season. His first two goals this season were also 5 on 5, but Stalberg said is adjusting to his new man-advantage role.

Its a learning curve to be in front, knowing where to line up and find that shooting lane, Stalberg said. But Ive been trying to do my job and not rush plays too much. If I get it, Ill just be poised with it and try to get to loose pucks.

Quenneville said Stalbergs done well on the power play, as well as on the more defensive-minded third line.

That lines been effective; they all bring something different, Quenneville said of Stalberg, Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. Viktors got good speed, and theyve had a lot of offensive zone shifts as well. Hes learning the position and mentality of being front-net guy on the power play. Its a work in progress but so far, so good.

Stalberg will approach Columbus tonight like he does any other team. If he keeps getting goals against them, so be it.

Well see what happens; its a new season, he said. I had a couple good games against them last year and hopefully itll continue.

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

Ulf Samuelsson saw the changes the Blackhawks made this season, his hiring as assistant coach being one of them. Soon he’ll be working with the team’s defensemen, another area that’s had some upheaval.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, some uncertainties and some moving parts that I probably, typically haven’t seen going into a season. So that makes it even more interesting and challenging,” Samuelsson said. “So I’m looking forward to this opportunity to really develop and work with some of the younger players.”

From its immediate coach to its personnel, the Blackhawks’ defense is dealing with plenty of change that will continue when the season begins this fall. The Blackhawks have had some addition (Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta and Jordan Oesterle) but dealing with the subtraction (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk) will nevertheless be tough. Coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday that pairings are a work in progress.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we're going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” he said. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

For Murphy, who was acquired in the deal that sent Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes, there are no set expectations as to where he fits yet.

“With any team you go into training camp proving where you’re going to be. Everyone has to come in and earn certain positions, especially me being a guy who they’re not as familiar with; I have to show what I can do,” Murphy said. “I definitely want to bring a more physical edge to defending at times and be able to skate well, have a good reach, make smart reads and try to help out with whatever’s needed with that.”

As for young players, the opportunity is there. Gustav Forsling admits he wasn’t happy that fellow Swede and role model Hjalmarsson was traded. But Forsling, who looked strong coming out of camp last September, knows he has to take advantage of the situation.

“Of course, I want to take the next step and play more,” he said. “I want to keep progressing my game and keep developing.”

The same goes for Jordan Oesterle, who the Blackhawks signed to a two-year deal on July 1.

“When I wanted to come here the opportunity was tremendous. Just the chance to come in and try to make the top six is there, it’s a battle with a number of us guys but that’s all you ask for in the situation I’m in,” he said. “Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more. I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Again, the Blackhawks could re-address defense once they implement Marian Hossa’s long-term injured reserve after the season begins. General manager Stan Bowman said there’s “no exact plan” right now on how they use that space – “that’s probably going to be dictated by where we’re at when we get to October, how the team’s playing, what areas are strong, what areas we want to add to,” he said.

It remains to be seen on that front. Regardless, from coaching to personnel, much has changed with the Blackhawks defense. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, we're live at the 2017 Blackhawks Convention. 

Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp join David Kaplan and Pat Boyle to talk about returning to Chicago. 

Later Boyle, CSN Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers, Chris Kuc and Sam Panayotovich discuss the huge roster changes this offseason. 

Listen to the STL Pod below.