Viktor Stalberg knows why he might not get to play when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night.
That doesn’t make the development any easier for him.
Stalberg skated outside the top four lines when Chicago practiced at the United Center on Tuesday, and coach Joel Quenneville also broke up the combination of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane that worked so well at the end of the Western Conference finals.
It looks as if Brandon Bollig will get Stalberg’s spot in the lineup for at least Game 1. Bollig, listed at 6-foot-2, 223 pounds, brings a more sizeable presence against the physical Bruins compared to the 6-3, 209-pound Stalberg, who is more of a speed player.
”We’ll see,” Quenneville said. ”Right now it’s just practice today, but there’s a likelihood or probability that it could happen.”
It’s the latest twist in a difficult postseason for Stalberg, who had nine goals and 14 assists in the regular season. He was benched for the first two nights of the second-round series against Detroit, but he returned to help the Blackhawks make up a 3-1 deficit and eliminate the Red Wings in seven games.
”You’re disappointed and you’re frustrated, but you take if for what it is and you try to regroup and try to do everything you can to get back in the lineup,” Stalberg said. ”I’ll try to approach it as well as I can.”
Stalberg, who has no goals and three assists in the playoffs, said he talked to Quenneville about the possibility he would be out for opener against Boston.
”I don’t want to get into what was said in that, but I think he just wanted a tougher lineup against them for the first game and we’ll take it from there,” Stalberg said. ”That’s how it is now.”
Toews and Kane, two of Chicago’s biggest stars, played on the same line for the last part of the previous series against Los Angeles. Kane responded with three goals in the clinching Game 5, including the winner in the second overtime off a pass from Toews.
”Bottom line is you’re ready to play no matter who you’re with,” Toews said, ”and you’re going to go out there and create offense, keep their guys off the score sheet, whoever you happen to be up against. That’s all you should focus on.”
Toews was flanked by Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa during Tuesday’s practice, while Kane was alongside Michal Handzus and Bryan Bickell.
Toews and Kane tied for the team lead with 23 goals apiece during the regular season, and splitting the stars would give Quenneville more scoring balance on his lines. Toews has one goal and eight assists in the playoffs, while Kane also has eight assists to go along with six goals, including four in the last two games.
”It’s balance and something we’ll look at,” Quenneville said. ”Sometimes that can evolve over the course of a series.”
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