- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will have some tough personnel decisions to make when Jonathan Toews returns from his concussion, but with the recent play of Marcus Kruger, Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Sharp, Quenneville might have one easy one: leave them be.
For the second consecutive game that trio dominated in a Hawks 4-3 shootout victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. They combined for 14 of the Hawks' 40 shots.
“I think the key to the line is Stalberg’s speed,” Sharp said afterwards. “You can see the confidence in his game grow and grow every night. I’m just out there to look pretty and shoot the puck.”
And shoot the puck he did, to finish a pretty 2-on-0 between the two line-mates. It gave the Hawks a 3-1 third period lead. One they eventually gave back.
“Sharp gave it to me early so I knew he wanted it back, otherwise he would have held on to it,” Stalberg joked. “Anytime you have one of the top goal scorers in the league you’re going to try and get it back in his hands. He made no mistake.”
Sharp buried and said he may have gone “overboard” with his celebration. It highlighted a great night for that line.
"Stalberg has had some good games,” Joel Quenneville said. “Put that one at the top of the list. As far as the impact or influence he had on it shift to shift. I thought his line-mates complimented him as well.”
Stalberg has always had speed, but Sharp’s right about him figuring things out from night to night. At the beginning of the year he was getting a few chances but not always burying them. Then a few goals started to come and now the shots on net are increasing. It means the scoring will too.
“Fourteen shots over the last two games I’m sure one of these will trickle in,” Stalberg noted about his game.
And then there is Kruger. He received as much praise as anyone especially for a player reluctant to shoot. He had just one on net on Thursday, but that’s ok when he has wingers that can produce.
“He’s been doing it all year for us,” Quenneville said. “He sustains a lot of pucks offensively. He can make some plays. He’s sneaky good offensively. That line, the last two games, has been outstanding. I think they all complement each other.”
Which means Quenneville’s decisions are that much tougher. It will be a no-brainer to drop Andrew Brunette from the top line when Toews returns. But what does that mean for Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane? They play the same position. It might mean breaking up the hottest trio -- at least they are right now.
“We really dominated in New Jersey [on Tuesday] and tonight too,” Stalberg said. “We try to tell each other 10 shots combined and we had more than that.”
They had 13 and a beauty of a 2-on-0 from center ice.