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Bickell rising, Stalberg fading for Blackhawks

LOS ANGELES — Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg combined to get the Blackhawks’ playoff season off to a grand start when Stalberg assisted on Bickell’s overtime goal against the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of the Blackhawks’ opening-round series.

But their fortunes have taken divergent paths since then. Bickell’s value seems to be going up with every game, while Stalberg’s seems to be going down.

Neither free-agent-to-be is concerned about the offseason with the Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals and chasing their second Stanley Cup in four seasons. But it’s hard to ignore that as Bickell’s star has risen, Stalberg’s seems to be dropping precipitously.

Even with the assist on the game-winner against the Wild, Stalberg’s time on ice dropped from 18:02 to 11:40, 10:51, 9:20 and 13:14 in the final four games of the Wild series. He was a healthy scratch in the first two games against the Red Wings, but even after returning in Game 3, Stalberg’s playing time is still at the fringe-player level. He’s played 9:01 and 8:33 in Games 2 and 3 of the conference finals.

Stalberg has three assists with a zero plus-minus in 13 postseason games.

‘‘To be honest, I’m not really disappointed how it’s been,’’ Stalberg said. ‘‘I think I started out pretty good. I thought our line was effective the first series. It was a big part of us winning that series.

‘‘Whatever happened after that, happened. Put it behind you, try to go on and play our game.’’

Stalberg has played on a line with Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad against the Kings.

‘‘I feel like we’ve been playing well in this series as well,” he said. Just don’t seem to get our bounces around the net. Do everything you can to keep working hard. At the end of the day, hopefully you work hard enough and it’s going to start going at some point.’’

Stalberg has one assist with an even plus-minus for the series. Shaw has one goal and is a minus-1. Saad has two assists and is a minus-1.

‘‘Can’t look at the numbers too much,’’ Stalberg said. ‘‘I think as a group we’ve been playing well. Look to keep improving as we go along.’’

The reality, though, is that numbers ultimately will be important for Stalberg in free agency, even though that’s the furthest thing from his mind. While the timing of Bickell’s playoff success — seven goals, two assists and a plus-3 in 15 games — couldn’t be better. Stalberg’s numbers will not be a help in free agency. This is the time of season where players make a lot of money, or not.

‘‘Certainly there’s more eyes on you at this point of the year,’’ Stalberg said. ‘‘You try not to think too much about it. It’s about winning right now and doing everything you can for the team. Whatever happens will take care of [itself]. Right now, it’s about this group, winning right now.’’



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