- Jesse Rogers, Chicago Cubs beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- So what exactly has gotten into Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg? Over the last two nights he’s totaled two goals and two assists to go along with 10 shots on net and multiple other good looks.
But more than anything he’s becoming a force on the ice, one Joel Quenneville is using to ignite others.
“It’s nice to have that flexibility with his speed,” Quenneville said after Stalberg helped the Hawks to a 5-1 win over Montreal on Wednesday. “I think that’s the one ingredient, when you start looking at altering the lines he can give that look, sometimes that’s the missing element to making the line go. Lot of time you get some consideration on that alone.”
Wait a minute. Is he talking about captain serious or the great Marian Hossa? Aren’t they the ones you put struggling players with -- in fact wasn’t Stalberg one of those players Toews was used to get going?
“It was fun to get a chance to play with [Dave] Bolland,” Stalberg said. “A little different role. That’s something I want to learn too, to broaden my game a little bit. I thought we did a good job shutting down their top line and getting some goals on them too.”
Bizzaro world has taken over. Stalberg is embracing a third-line role, one he’s never attempted with the Hawks. He played with Bolland and Bryan Bickell, scoring off a Bickell feed and then assisting on the winger's first goal since Oct. 31. If he can get Bickell going, maybe Stalberg is an igniter.
“I think overall we’re seeing a better hockey player over time here,” Quenneville said. “I think he’s improving his puck protection, we love his speed, he’s got a nice shot.”
None of what Quenneville said is breaking news. Hockey observers see the talent but haven’t seen the finishing touch. Is it coming? Sort of.
“I’m not a five overall pick,” Stalberg said. “I’m a pretty late guy [161st] and I don’t think too many of those guys are going to be 30 goal scorers. I’m working my way. I’ve been a pretty good goal scorer throughout my life. It’s learning where to shoot the puck. It’s something I have to work on, getting shots through.”
If Stalberg turns the corner completely, the Hawks will get a huge boost from a player who -- as of Wednesday -- can play on any of the four lines.
“I’m pretty happy with how the whole season is going,” Stalberg stated. “I think I’ve been playing well the last 10 games or so. It’s good to see they have more confidence in me in letting me do that.”
Joel Quenneville raved about Pirri’s play in his first game after being recalled from the minors one day after Marcus Kruger suffered a head injury against Pittsburgh.
“Liked Pirri a lot, I thought he did a great job, he was good in all areas,” Quenneville said. “He was smart, headsie, made some good plays, I thought he had some more speed than I previously saw. It was nice to see him fit in there. I thought his overall game looked like it was more complete, but the thing I just mentioned that was most noticeable was his quickness.”
That is high praise. Pirri played 16:37, collected two shots, an assist on Bickell’s goal in the third period and won 10 of 18 face-offs. He played his role between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa to near-perfection.
• One day after his nine game point streak was snapped Patrick Sharp scored the game-winning goal on a 2-on-1 break in the second period. It was his 18th goal to go along with 18 assists. His 12 day old daughter Madelyn, attending her first Hawks game, saw her dad score.
“Her first game. I got a goal. Hopefully she’s up late and sleeps through the night,” Sharp quipped.
• Brent Seabrook was a team high plus-3 with two assists.
“It was nice. A couple other guys played pretty well too. It was good, a good feeling.”-Corey Crawford on winning the wrestling belt the players give out to the player of the game after wins.
11hJeff Gold and Ben Arledge