Viktor Stalberg is glad to be back in the mix
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com June 17, 2013 11:46PM
Chicago Blackhawks left wing Viktor Stalberg responds to a question during a news conference before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final hockey series against the Boston Bruins Tuesday, June 11, 2013 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Updated: July 19, 2013 6:25AM
BOSTON — Viktor Stalberg has been frustrated — with his situation, his ice time, his own play. But he knows the quickest way to get out of Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s doghouse is to force his way out. Play better, and he’ll play more.
“I haven’t had the same role I had in the regular season; sometimes that’s frustrating,” Stalberg said Monday before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. “I also didn’t score when I had that chance in the first series. It’s a give-and-take. I can be better. Hopefully, I’ll be able to come in here and make a difference in the rest of the Final here.”
Stalberg played a little more than 14 minutes a game during the regular season, in which he had nine goals and 14 assists. But in the postseason, he has averaged just 10:52 — lowest among the Hawks’ regulars — and was benched for the first two games against Detroit and the first two games against Boston before returning to the lineup for Game 3.
Even with Marian Hossa out of the lineup with an upper-body injury, Stalberg saw just 11:02 of ice time on Monday, only 39 seconds more than Ben Smith. Through 16 playoff games, Stalberg has no goals and three assists.
“I thought I had pretty good legs out there,” Stalberg said. “I feel like I was skating and creating some chances. I felt like I was trying to do everything I could out there. We’ve got to find a way to score and hit those chances.”
Stalberg admitted he has had a tough time getting into a rhythm with only a few shifts each period.
“Yeah, it’s not only hard for me, it’s hard for anybody,” Stalberg said. “I don’t think it matters who you ask. If you ask [Patrick] Kane or [Jonathan] Toews, they’d struggle with that, too. That’s just part of the game. You’ve got to deserve your minutes, and, apparently, they didn’t feel like I did. I’m going to do everything I can tonight to get out there more, and if I’m out there more, I’ll try to help the team as much as possible.”
Hossa’s late scratch made a mess of the lines, and Stalberg started with his regular-season linemates Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. By the end of the game, though, he was skating with Toews and Patrick Sharp.
Quenneville said earlier in the day that the Hawks needed more speed and energy out of Stalberg.
“We’re just looking for more,” he said.
Stalberg said it was tough watching the first two games, but that there’s no added motivation from the benching, and none is needed. It’s the Final, after all.
“I think you’re motivated the whole time, it’s the playoffs,” he said. “No matter if it’s the conference final or semifinal, whatever it’s been, you’re motivated to play. But certainly watching games is never fun, so you get maybe a little extra edge to getting back in there. Hopefully that’ll be the difference.”