Stalberg set to emerge as power play threat for Blackhawks

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Stalberg set to emerge as power play threat for Blackhawks

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.

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Sunday:

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

What if… Cubs GM Jed Hoyer’s takeaways from epic World Series Game 7

Quick hits: Blackhawks start strong in win over Blues

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

White Sox: Happy with progress, Brett Lawrie tries to clear final hurdles

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Michigan State gets big win to boost tourney hopes, while Wisconsin loses for fourth time in five games

 

 

 

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling found out at 8 a.m. Sunday that he was starting for an ailing Corey Crawford. Considering he did this back in December for a few weeks, adjusting quick for one game was fine.

"It's kind of my job," Darling said.

And Darling, once again, did his job.

Darling stopped 30 of 32 shots and Patrick Kane scored his 24th goal of the season as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday night. The Blackhawks have won nine of their last 10 games. They're one point behind the Minnesota Wild, who made their splashy trade-deadline move in acquiring Martin Hanzal on Sunday. But the Blackhawks, thanks to veterans regaining their form, a top line finding its rhythm and youth consistently improving, are just rolling right along.

"We had a great start to the game. I thought Darls was excellent all night, great stretch there in the last 10 minutes where we fight through some tough shifts, particularly in the last couple of minutes in our end. But good win," coach Joel Quenneville said. "You look at the nice plays on the goals, it was kind of a comparable ending to the outdoor game: tied and about the same time they scored, we scored (tonight). Big two points for us."

Jonathan Toews scored his 16th of the season and Artem Anisimov scored the game-winning goal with 5:20 remaining in regulation. Tanner Kero added an empty-net goal with 2.6 seconds remaining in the game.

The Blackhawks already knew they'd be without Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) for at least a day or two when they found out Crawford couldn't go this morning. As Quenneville said Darling was strong once again, denying the Blues all but twice (a 2-on-1 goal from Magnus Paajarvi and a power-play goal from Alex Pietrangelo).

Toews and Kane (power-play goal) staked the Blackhawks to a 2-0 lead early before the Blues tied it in the second. But late in the third period Anisimov took the feed from Artemi Panarin to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead.

"I saw the puck all the way. It was easy to pick up," Anisimov said. "When you don't see the puck at the last moment and it comes, it's hard to receive and prepare for the next move. But I saw it all the way. Easy to prepare for the next move."

Speaking of next moves, do the Blackhawks make any more before the trade deadline. General manager Stan Bowman said on Friday, following the acquisition of Tomas Jurco, that he'll keep talking and listening but likes the group he has right now. If Bowman's made moves it's for what the Blackhawks have needed, not because of another team's trades. The Blackhawks like what they have right now. Winning nine of 10 and continuing to trend in the right direction, they should be careful not to disrupt what they've got going.

"I think we're, as we've said lately, trending the right way. We're playing solid. I think all four lines are contributing in every which way," Toews said. "I love our group right now. Everyone is getting better individually, contributing more and more and it's a lot of fun to see the way we're playing right now. We know that the ceiling is way higher and we can keep getting better too."