NASHVILLE – Viktor Stalberg remembers this time of year.
He didn’t experience it last season with the Nashville Predators, who got off to a rough start and never recovered after Pekka Rinne was out the early part of the season. But he’s back into it now, and how better to start than against the team with which he won a Stanley Cup.
“It’s pretty fun,” said Stalberg. “Obviously my last memory there is winning it, so it should be exciting. They’re obviously a great team and had success in the playoffs. I should be a tough matchup, but we’re excited about it.”
This year has had its ups and downs for Stalberg. He went through injuries and stints in the minors before returning to the Predators’ lineup in early March. He played in just 25 games with Nashville, recording two goals and eight assists. It’s the second consecutive tough season after signing a four-year, $12-million contract in the summer of 2013.
[MORE HAWKS: Kane ready, Vermette sitting in Game 1]
“Yeah, it’s been a tough year," Stalberg said. "I think you kind of try to stay with it as much as you can. But bad timing, injuries, all season long it seems like. Just couldn’t really catch a break. I played through it and found a way to get back in the lineup and obviously I’m here right now. At the end of the day it worked out and I’m in the lineup here when the playoffs start, so I’m excited about that.”
The Blackhawks enter this series sitting Antoine Vermette, a player they acquired at the deadline for a first-round pick and a defenseman (Klas Dahlbeck). Stalberg understands how that feels; he was scratched at the start of the Detroit series and again later in the postseason back in the spring of 2013.
“Yeah, I think my situation was what it was. It was a game here or there. So at the end of the day I still felt like I was a big part of it. But it is tough,” Stalberg said. “You certainly don’t ever want to sit out… it’s a tough situation to be in, but you can’t make it about yourself. It’s about winning games and I think that’s what they’re looking to do. If Joel thinks that that’s their best lineup, that’s what he’s going to go with.”
Speaking of the Stanley Cup, where’s that ring he also received?
“I think it’s back in Sweden. But it’s in my safety deposit box there, I think,” he said. “I don’t really know, or keep it around. I think it’s a little too big to wear around town.”