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.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Robin Lehner calls out team defense plus Mike Gapski on his 2500 games with the Blackhawks

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Robin Lehner calls out team defense plus Mike Gapski on his 2500 games with the Blackhawks

Another night and another awful showing by the Blackhawks team defense, and this time, Robin Lehner let the team hear about it. Pat Boyle, Adam Burish and Scott King discuss the Blackhawks' ugly loss to the Coyotes and whether there should be some more line mixing happening soon. Plus, head athletic trainer Mike Gapski took part in his 2500th game with the Blackhawks and he sat down with Pat Foley 1-on-1 to re-live his 33 years with the organization.

1:13 - The odd-man rushes are piling up against this defense

5:54 - Is the power play getting going kinda maybe a little bit?

7:43 - Should Jeremy Colliton mix up the lines once again?

9:20 - The Kirby Dach playing-time dilemma

13:45 - Celebrating Mike Gapski's 2500 games with the Blackhawks

17:00 - Pat Foley's 1-on-1 interview with Mike Gapski

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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4 Takeaways: Blackhawks lose 5-2 to Coyotes

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USA Today

4 Takeaways: Blackhawks lose 5-2 to Coyotes

The Blackhawks fell 5-2 to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, giving them their third straight loss. Here are four takeaways:

Ex-Hawks Haunting

Former Blackhawks forward and Bartlett, Illinois native Vinnie Hinostroza helped dig the Hawks a three-goal hole to climb out of in the first period. Hinostroza picked up secondary assists on goals from Michael Grabner (2:56), Clayton Keller (5:03) and Brad Richardson (15:04) in the opening frame. 

Another former Hawk, Nick Schmaltz got past Patrick Kane and scored off a faceoff in Chicago's zone at 8:25 of the second period. 

D hurtin'

Calvin de Haan, one of the Hawks' more reliable defensemen this season, left the first period of Thursday's 5-1 loss against the Golden Knights in Vegas with a right shoulder injury. He could miss a decent amount of time as he had surgery on the same shoulder in the offseason, which sidelined him for several months. 

Chicago has given up 10 goals since de Haan left the lineup. His injury came with two-time Norris trophy-winning defenseman Duncan Keith (groin) not on the current three-game road trip which wraps up in St. Louis on Saturday. 

A positive for the Hawks' defense tonight was Dennis Gilbert getting his first NHL point by assisting on Jonathan Toews' second period goal, which came off a Dominik Kubalik rebound. 

Olli Maatta was back in the lineup on Thursday after missing the last four games with flu-like symptoms. Maatta had a +/- rating of 0 and recorded three shots. 

Top players on scoresheet

Another positive was The Captain, Kubalik, Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat all finding the scoresheet. Strome scored at 12:58 of the third period on a power play, giving the Hawks their fifth straight game with a power-play goal. Kubalik got an assist on Toews' goal and DeBrincat has three goals and an assist in his past four games.

If the defense can find a way to tighten up a bit, the Blackhawks will be able to ride two very capable goalies and their top two lines, which are gaining some confidence. 

2,500 for 'Gapper

Blackhawks head athletic trainer Mike Gapski worked his 2,500th game with the Blackhawks Thursday. Gapski is the longest tenured trainer in the NHL. 

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Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.