By Adam Hoge-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) Blackhawks winger Viktor Stalberg denied reports that he complained about playing time, telling a reporter “check your sources better.”
Stalberg was benched for Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings and his status for Game 2 is unclear.
“We’ll see,” head coach Joel Quenneville said Friday when asked if Stalberg would play in Game 2.
So why was Stalberg benched? The winger thinks he was just the victim of Quenneville trying to shakeup the lineup after a sleepy first series.
“I think he wasn’t happy with the team performance and he chose to take me out of the lineup,” Stalberg said. “That’s how it is. I’ll live with that. Obviously it’s frustrating , but I’ll do anything I can to support the guys and to be back in the lineup as soon as I get the chance. I’ll try to make a difference when I get back in there.”
Stalberg only recorded one assist and was a plus-two in the five-game first round series against the Minnesota Wild. He also has seen his power play time diminish recently. With Dave Bolland returning from injury, someone had to fall out of the top four lines.
“It’s always difficult to get that news and it’s almost like when you tell them that, it’s tough on that individual knowing this is what they do and they want that opportunity,” Quenneville said.
Quenneville had a talk with Stalberg after the first round series about his status, but the winger said that conversation wasn’t really anything out of the ordinary.
“That was just short, standard I think,” Stalberg said. “Just be more intense out there, play harder. It’s nothing I’ve never heard before. I think most guys when they’re not playing get to hear that so nothing too different. But he wants me to produce more and be more effective out there so hopefully when I get back I’ll try to make a difference.”
Considering the length of the playoffs, Stalberg most likely will become a key contributor again, which is what Quenneville wants him to keep in mind.
“I think those guys are important guys to your team and you want to make sure their moral and their intensity is in the right place,” the head coach said. “Obviously it’s a huge disappointment and things change so quickly in our business whether it’s regular season, even more come playoff time, that you have to keep yourself ready and you know you are going to be a part of it. You are going to be big part of it too so put yourself back in that frame of mind that you are looking for that next chance and take advantage of the next opportunity.”
But even if Stalberg does contribute the rest of the way, it will be interesting to see if the benching will impact his future with the team as he is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. For now, he’s denying any correlation.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I think this is part of it, whether I’m here next year or not we’ll see what happens. That’s something we’ll take after the year. It’s nothing I’m really too concerned about at this point so we’ll figure that one out after we hopefully hoist the Cup here.”
Handzus, Keith Good To Go
Both Michal Handzus and Duncan Keith were absent from Friday’s practice, but Quenneville said both will play Saturday.
It was the third straight practice Handzus has missed, but the second-line center was still able to play 17 minutes in Game 1 Wednesday night.
Friday’s practice lines were the same as Game 1, with the exception of Ben Smith filling in for Handzus on the second line. Unless Quenneville decides to play Stalberg in Game 2, this is how the lines should look for Saturday’s Noon puck drop at the United Center:
1st line: Brandon Saad — Jonathan Toews — Marian Hossa
2nd line: Patrick Sharp — Michal Handzus — Patrick Kane
3rd line: Bryan Bickell — Dave Bolland — Andrew Shaw
4th line: Daniel Carcillo — Marcus Kruger — Michael Frolik
For more Blackhawks coverage throughout the season, follow Adam Hoge on Twitter (@AdamHoge).