Blackhawks

Stalberg honing his all-around game

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Stalberg honing his all-around game

Viktor Stalberg has jump-started his offense lately. Hes also jumped around the Blackhawks forward lines. Top line. Fourth line. And now its the checking line and the defensive responsibility that comes with it.

Its a new look for Stalberg, one that hes earned with stronger play and more offensive output lately. But hes not afraid to learn. Or ask questions.

Hes the first player Ive played with that, after every shift, hes asking me what he needs to do or what I can help him with, said Stalbergs latest linemate Bryan Bickell. Thats good to have the communication on the bench and off the ice, to have a game-plan going into games. I think its been fun for him. And hes been lighting it up big time.

Yes, Stalberg has been lighting up that score sheet lately, tallying three goals and four assists on his current four-game point streak. Hes already established a new career high in assists this season (13), and is just three goals away from his career-best 12 set last season. But Stalberg is also honing his defensive game with his latest line assignment and its helping develop his all-around game.

They stress small details here, and theyve helped me out of a lot with where to place my stick in defensive zone coverage, Stalberg said. Maybe you dont think about that (defensive game) when youre starting your pro career but I feel Im getting better at doing that. Im comfortable playing against the top lines, too.

Stalberg is learning the defensive nuances from Bickell and Dave Bolland, who certainly have enough experience in the checking-line role. Bolland said Stalberg is adapting well.

Hes seeing what its like on the checking line, going off and on, maybe getting a five-second shift instead of a 40-second shift, Bolland said. He knows what to do when he comes back in his own zone. If we can utilize his speed and get him the puck, hell be a big help to us on that third line.

The Blackhawks will still look to Stalberg for offensive production more than defense. But if he can improve his defense, and if that defensive work can lead to more offense, then its beneficial to him and the Blackhawks.

Theres that responsibility of playing against top guys that he can learn from, coach Joel Quenenville said. Theres a lot of reward playing against top guys as far as the offensive side of things. The better you check, the more time you have the puck. Whether its with Bolley or Bicks or (Michael Frolik), if hes with that group, youre committed to defensive play and youre rewarded.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: