Viktory: Stalberg's shootout winner lifts Hawks

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Viktory: Stalberg's shootout winner lifts Hawks

Friday, April 1, 2011
Posted 8:48 p.m. Updated 9:53 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville asked Viktor Stalberg about getting into a shootout a few weeks ago.

WATCH: Stalberg happily in shootout lineups

On Friday night Quenneville wasnt asking as much as telling Stalberg he was in the top three. And for the second time in as many attempts this season, Stalberg came through.

Bryan Bickell scored late in regulation to tie it and Stalberg had the shootout winner as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 at Nationwide Arena. The victory kept the Blackhawks eighth in the Western Conference; Calgary, a 3-2 winner in St. Louis, remained three points behind them.

Stalbergs only other shootout was Nov. 6 in Atlanta, another game-winner. But hes been good at it during Blackhawks practices and skates, so he got another chance on Friday.

So far so good I guess, Stalberg said of his 1.000 shootout percentage. I do a lot in practice and try to score as much as I can there. (Quenneville) asked me a few weeks ago if I wanted to go if we had the chance. We havent had any shootouts since he asked me. But that was a big point. At least I got a chance to win it.

The Blackhawks took advantage of things early in this one. Patrick Kane scored on a 2-on-1 sprung by Chris Campoli, and Brent Seabrook scorched one 15 seconds into the Blackhawks first power play for a 2-0 lead.

But then the Blackhawks got sloppy, with turnovers in the first and five penalties in the second period. The Blue Jackets, playing without Rick Nash and eliminated from playoff contention on Thursday, looked more like the team playing for something.

We killed for half the (second) period. And a lot of them were stupid penalties, too. We need to jeep the sticks on the ice and use our legs to backcheck and forecheck, defenseman Brian Campbell said. We were a little sloppy. But we got the win which is what we needed.

Still, it was looking unlikely for a while. The Blue Jackets were pushing the pace and tied it late in the second period on Derick Brassards 5-on-3 goal. Columbus then took a 3-2 lead about 13 minutes into the third, with Sami Pahlsson deflecting Anton Stralmans shot.

But just 95 seconds later Bickells knuckle-ball shot went under Mathieu Garons arm to tie it.

We gave up that 5 on 3 which was tough to swallow, Seabrook said. We just needed to be more disciplined, keep our sticks down and work harder. Thats what we did in the third period and we got the result that we wanted.
Bryan Bickell's goal with 5:03 remaining guaranteed at least one point for the Blackhawks. The goal was No. 17 this season for Bickell, but first since March 5 at Toronto. (AP)
The Blackhawks didnt get their desired game on Friday night. They did, however, get the desired result.

We came out of that (second) period very fortunate to be even, Quenneville said. Well take what we can get right now. It turned out to be a huge win for us.

Johnson a Masterton candidate

Ryan Johnson came back from two broken feet to become a solid faceoff-winning and shot-blocking center for the Blackhawks. For that reason, Johnson was nominated for the Masterton Trophy by the Chicago media. Johnson spent all offseason and part of the fall coming back from his foot injuries; he broke each on blocked shots. He made his Blackhawks debut in mid-December.

Theres nothing more rewarding than getting back to where you want to be (after injuries). I never thought about giving up, Johnson said. I needed a lot of the summer to get back. Patience is a hard trait to have when youre used to that point of the summer gearing up and getting back on the ice.

Johnson bided his time, got healthy and then, when the time came, answered the Blackhawks call. Hes been effective for them in several categories including faceoffs, where he won 11 of 15 against Columbus on Friday.

I wanted to be patient and let teams figure out what they knew they had or didnt have and the phone eventually started ringing, he said. I just wanted to put myself in the best situation to win a championship. That was here.

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

Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling taking advantage of No. 1 reps

Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling taking advantage of No. 1 reps

Life as a backup goaltender can be difficult. 

The job entails being prepared at all times and performing at a high level when your number is called despite going sometimes weeks without seeing any action.

With Corey Crawford backing up Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey, Scott Darling is getting the No. 1 reps in the crease for the Blackhawks.

And he's taking full advantage of that.

"Yeah, obviously I miss Corey, but it's fun to be the guy right now," Darling said following a 2-0 loss in Wednesday's preseason opener to the Pittsburgh Penguins. "I'll take any starts I can get. I don't care if it's regular season or preseason, I just want to play as much as I can. It was nice to get the first game under my belt."

After facing just three shots in the first period, Darling stayed on his toes by denying all 23 shots he saw in the second period — a handful of them on the penalty kill.

"I definitely don't like sitting there," Darling said of the first period. "I don't think they had a shot for about 12 minutes, but you've got to learn how to play in those situations too. It's nice to get some game feels."

Darling finished with 33 saves overall in the Blackhawks' loss and was sharp in the first dress rehearsal of the year as both goals were out of his control — a redirect on the power play and a rebound tap-in at the doorstep, both by Chris Kunitz.

Credit his strong play to working hard in the offseason and maximizing on the opportunity he's been given.

"Darling certainly was a standout, not only when we got a little bit overwhelmed in the second period, but really throughout the game," Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen said. "He was certainly a positive, which we always expect out of him but I think it's a testament to the way he prepared himself this summer and I think it certainly showed tonight." 

Darling doesn't get many chances to anchor the blue paint on a nightly basis.

He started in 24 games last season, 11 of which came during the final portion of the season in March and April when Crawford was dealing with an upper-body injury.

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Darling said that stretch was "probably the best I've ever felt" because you know you're the guy, which eliminates the stress factor of turning in a great performance to earn your next start.

He finished the 2015-16 campaign with a 12-8-4 record, 2.58 goals against average and .915 save percentage, including one shutout.

Not bad, not great. 

This season is a chance to prove he can continue to be a consistent and reliable goaltender in any situation, and when the 27-year-old Lemont native gets the opportunity to represent the team he grew up rooting for — something he never loses sight of — Darling expects to be on top of his game when called upon.

"I'm seriously excited to be on the Chicago Blackhawks still," he said. "I just want to play the best I can when they give me a chance to play."

Nick Schmaltz making good early impression with Blackhawks

Nick Schmaltz making good early impression with Blackhawks

Nick Schmaltz figured it would be different at this level.

Yes, Schmaltz had played against some of college’s best en route to that national title with the University of North Dakota. But the pro level is the pro level for a reason.

“It’s a big transition from the college level. Guys are faster, more skilled, and you have less time and space,” he said. “But as camp’s gone on everyone’s gotten a little more comfortable and making more plays and I think we’ll continue that into tonight.”

Schmaltz looked pretty comfortable on Wednesday night, when the Blackhawks lost their preseason opener to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-0. Schmaltz logged 18 minutes, 30 seconds of ice time, including 2:53 on the power play. For the Madison, Wisc., kid who used to come to Blackhawks playoff games, playing that first game at the United Center was “surreal.”

“It was good,” he said after the game. “Obviously we didn’t get the results we wanted, but we had some good opportunities. We can get more pucks on net. We let the goalie off a little easy, but hopefully just keep building and keep getting better every day.”

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Schmaltz has practiced some on the left wing, and that’s where he was in Wednesday night’s scrimmage (with Vinnie Hinostroza centering and Richard Panik on right wing). The Blackhawks always love versatility, but Schmaltz going on the wing is more of a need than an option right now.

“Most of the openings in the organization are on the wing. We’re pretty full down the middle. It’s something we’re trying to see if he can fit in there and play well there,” assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “And he’s got a nice set of hands, a nice skill set, so hopefully he’ll be comfortable on the wing there.”

Schmaltz has played more right wing than left, but he said the adjustments aren’t so bad.

“Just wall work. Might have to make some backhand plays off the wall but other than that, nothing, really,” Schmaltz said. “Since me and Panik are playing off wing, we’ll get across the blue line, cut across and make plays to each other. It’ll be fun out there.”

Schmaltz held his own in his first game in a Blackhawks uniform. There are high expectations for him entering this season, but he’ll let his game dictate where he ends up.

“If I play my game, play hard, I should put myself in a pretty good spot,” he said. “But I can’t control what decisions they make, so I’ll compete as hard as I can every night and show them what I can do.”