Viktor Stalberg spent another practice in a white jersey, another practice out of the top four lines. It’s an interesting situation, and one Stalberg really didn’t feel like addressing.
“I don’t really have anything to say about it,” he said after Tuesday’s practice. “Ask Q.”
Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t going into it too much, either, when asked what Stalberg has to do to get back into the starting lineup.
“Stay ready. Stay ready,” Quenneville said. “Nobody said he’s out of the lineup, but… make decisions tough on us.”
Well, it’s almost decision time as the Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals here tomorrow night. We know this for sure: Dave Bolland is likely centering that No. 3 line and Michal Handzus, who has had “maintenance days” the past two practices, will play tomorrow. But if Stalberg’s out, and why he’s been out of the lines these few practices, is still unclear.
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A few days ago when Stalberg and Brandon Saad were both out of the top four lines, Quenneville said Saad had to “keep it simple, advance the puck and don’t always feel like you have to make a play,” and the same applied to Stalberg.
When asked how he would assess his first-round play, Stalberg said, “We won 4-1, right? So that’s good.”
Now there was one noticeable change for Stalberg this postseason: he played just one minute on the Blackhawks’ power play in the first round after being on it throughout the regular season (103 minutes’ worth of it). Perhaps there was some frustration, some venting over not being on the man advantage anymore. But for the time Stalberg was on the power play this season, he only had two assists to show for it.
Whatever the reasons, Stalberg spent the past three practices on the outside looking in. It would still be surprising if he’s not in the lineup tomorrow night. He had a solid first round, and his speed would certainly be beneficial against the Wings.