"It sounds like a cliché but this could end any day for us young guys. It could be on the plane, it could be tomorrow it could be a week from now." -- Kyle Beach, Thursday night, on cut-down day looming.
ST. LOUIS --After Thursday's 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues Joel Quenneville further clarified his timetable for final cuts: By the time the Hawks take the ice on Friday night, at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins, they could very well be at the maximum 23 players allowed to start the regular season, or even lower.
No player made a better case for himself on Thursday than winger Viktor Stalberg. A key part of the Kris Versteeg trade with Toronto this past offseason, the 24-year old Swede has underwhelmed in training camp so far. But against the Blues, Stalberg exploded for six shots in the opening period and had an assist on the Hawks lone goal.
"I thought I finally got my legs going a little bit here," Stalberg said after the game. "This is the way I have to play if I'm going to be on this team. I had an overall pretty good game today but for some reason the puck doesn't seem to bounce in the net right now."
Stalberg has that lone assist as his only point of the preseason but Thursday might be a step to better days. Quenneville saw it as well.
"He was more noticeable," he said. "He had the puck a lot. He had good speed. He had good jump. Thought he had a good game and [Jeremy] Morin had another good one."
Morin missed on a penalty shot but again had some flare to his game. Kyle Beach is another bubble player and he tried to get noticed fighting with BJ Crombeen of the Blues.
"I felt that I needed to show something," Beach said. "Everyday can be your last here. I wanted to make an impression and try to get the boys fired up here early."
Beach lost the fight and is a longshot to make the team. He and his teammates are well aware of what's coming on Friday.
"It's definitely talked about," Beach explained. "Guys are a bit nervous including myself. You're always fighting for your job here and we have to take that attitude everyday and keep working."
Even a player like Stalberg, considered a lock to make the team entering camp, is feeling the heat.
"Everyone is feeling the pressure," he said. "I knew I had to go out there and perform to give myself a chance to be in the lineup October 7 and this was by far my best game of the preseason."